KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano took notice of the 6-foot-6-inch, 308-pound powerful and athletic defensive lineman causing disruption along the line of scrimmage while the Kansas City Chiefs defense prowled the field.
“Everybody’s like ‘Who the heck is 95?’” Pagano said in preparations for his team’s game with the Chiefs this Sunday in Indianapolis.
If NFL offenses haven’t yet become familiar with No. 95, rookie Chris Jones, he may be making his introduction in the offensive backfield soon. The second-round pick from Mississippi State made his first NFL start Sunday, and Pagano said the big man is making making his name known.
“He’s strong at the point,” Pagano said. “He gets knocking back, he plays square, he plays behind his pads and his hands. He’s a disruptive guy in the there, and he’s going to be a handful for us.”
Jones played 38 snaps Sunday, his most of the season. Jones started the season as the fourth lineman in the teams 3-4 defense, rotating in as a fresh defender and providing the veterans a breather.
The absence of defensive lineman Allen Bailey, whom the team placed on injured reserve last week, accelerated the timetable for Jones. The team now needs the young penetrating defender to be a bigger contributor.
Coach Andy Reid thought the rookie played well for his first start.
“There were a couple of rookie mistakes in there, but then he had some good plays too,” Reid said. “I think that’s what you get with most rookies.”
Fellow defensive lineman Jaye Howard agreed with his coach’s assessment.
“I feel like he played well for his first game starting,” Howard said. “He definitely helped us in the run presence setting the edge. I’m just looking for him to build off that week to week.”
His first NFL start proved emotional for the 22-year-old rookie.
“Just to have the opportunity to run out of the tunnel with the smoke all glazing and fans hollering,” Jones said, “that was a heck of an opportunity, and I’m blessed for it.”
Jones assisted on two tackles, but his personal highlight may have been his near miss. He drilled Drew Brees just as he let go of a pass. The hit won’t show up on the stat sheet, but it meant something for a rookie chasing a future Hall of Fame quarterback.
“And just to get a lick on him, I was excited as ever,” Jones said with a huge smile. “I felt like I had a sack.”
Jones fell to the Chiefs with the 37th pick in this year’s draft. NFL Network Mike Mayock was among many draft analysts who knocked Jones for demonstrating an inconsistent technique and motor. At the times he appeared content to give up on plays, the critics said.
But Jones showed his Chiefs coaches in practice – and fans on the field – a different attitude upon his arrival in Kansas City.
“He spends a lot of time at what he’s doing,” Reid said. “He wants to do the right thing every time. He’s in here in the evening and comes early, that whole deal.”
Jones prides himself on his work ethic.
“I feel like your preparation is the most valuable asset you can have,” Jones said. “It’s all about how you prepare. Just like practice and the game, it’s going to carry over.”
Howard said he told Jones to treat his first NFL start just like he treats practice at the team’s training complex.
“’It’s nothing different than practice, do what you’ve been doing in practice,’” Howard said. “He’s been producing in practice, and as you see on Sunday, it’s translating to the game.”