KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Midway through the third quarter, the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense faced a crucial third down deep in its own territory — to the extent such things exist in the preseason.
The Houston Texans called a timeout to discuss the play call, giving third-year Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones an opportunity to bound onto the field and cajole his teammates.
Jones is an affable guy. He likes to cut up and make jokes, especially during sideline interviews in preseason games, but Jones’ wasn’t out there on the field to lighten the mood.
“That was all about ways to get better,” Jones said. “There’s no joking. I see potential in a lot of guys here and I just want the best for them, whether it’s on this team or elsewhere. If I see something they can fix while they’re playing out there, I want to correct them right then, so they won’t make the same mistake twice.”
When the defense got a stop on the next snap, nobody in the stadium was more excited than Jones, who lept up and down on the sideline while flexing and yelling in celebration.
“Yeah, I’m very emotional, man,” Jones said. “I love my guys. Being in the room with those guys, I see how hard they fight and just seeing them make a play — I feel like I’m making a play.”
Jones increased his sack total from two to 6 1/2 sacks from his rookie year to his second season, made his first career interception last year and defended three more passes (seven) than he did during his debut campaign.
But now, Jones believes he’s in the best shape of his life and poised for the best season of his career.
“I killed the gassers,” Jones said. “That’s the thing with (Chiefs) coach (Andy) Reid, he makes you come back from the offseason and do a conditioning test. I know everyone else around the league runs 20s, but we’re running half the field and halfway back. It was brutal, but I killed it.”
Just dominated 15 1/2 gassers...
1st time in 2yrs, this is going to be special.
— Chris Jones (@stonecoldjones_) July 26, 2018
Aside from changing his body — which was, in part, a byproduct of rehabbing from a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his knee — Jones also has changed his mindset and wants to emerge as a leader for the Chiefs’ defense.
“Every year you want to improve your game,” Jones said. “Whether it’s being vocal or a mental aspect of the game, you always want to improve. That’s my main thing. I went down last year during the playoff with a knee injury and that helped me analyze myself as a player, as a leader.”
Jones hopes to help lead a revival of the Chiefs’ run defense, which ranked eighth in the NFL against the run in 2015 — allowing 98.2 rushing yards per game — before nosediving to 26th (121.1) and 25th (118.1), respectively during the last two seasons.
“When you look at the D-line, pound for pound, we have one of the best defenses in the game,” Jones said. “It’s not about an issue of talent. It’s about us executing the defense. … Last year, if you look, we came in 27th in stopping the run, so that’s a point of emphasis going into the season. Let’s block up the run more then we can get after the quarterback.”
During limited action in the preseason opener, the results were mixed.
Texans running back gashed the first-team defense, which was without both its starting middle linebackers and both its starting safeties, for 29 yards on four carries.
During Houston’s second drive, Alfred Blue only gained 8 yards on five carries — offering reason for encouragement entering the second preseason game Aug. 17 at the Atlanta Falcons.
“It’s still early, so it’s really not a concern,” Jones said. “We’ve got three more preseason games. It’s about going in here, fix what you can fix, correct your mistakes and move on to the next game.”