Jason Pierre-Paul (“JPP”) left a lasting impression on Bill Belichick in the 2011 season. Coach Belichick experienced JPP’s freakish ability first hand in Super Bowl XLVI when the young defensive end posted four quarterback hurries, one quarterback hit, two batted passes, and two tackles. After experiencing how JPP influences the momentum of a game, Belichick had to add that type of player in the 2012 NFL draft. To try and accomplish that, the Patriots traded up in the first round of this past April’s draft to select Chandler Jones out of Syracuse.
There are many similarities between Jones and Pierre-Paul and, in fact, Jones said he heard the comparison throughout the draft process. Some believe the Pierre-Paul comparison is ludicrous considering how freakishly athletic and unique he is, but here is how the two compare based on their combine performances:
The comparison is quite compelling.
Obviously, the biggest difference is the 40 time, which shows that Pierre-Paul is clearly faster when considering straight-line speed. However, Jones appears to be a little bit quicker based on the shuttle and 3-cone times. The other thing that really stands out here is Jones’ arm length. Arm length is a huge factor for a defensive end as it enables the player to initiate contact, gain leverage, and get to the quarterback or ball carrier. The rookie’s arms are monstrous and represent a huge advantage assuming he knows how to use them as a weapon. Given his inaugural preseason performance last week, there’s no question he does.
While the combine performance comparison is interesting, a player’s presentation on the field is the differentiator. JPP proved he belongs in an elite class with his 2011 breakout season. Because we haven’t seen much of Jones on the NFL field, it’s ridiculous to assume that he is going to have that same success based on the similar combine numbers. However, we can see why Belichick was intrigued with Jones as a prospect throughout the draft process. Both of these guys were extremely athletic and raw players coming out of college.
Take that pre-draft comparison to JPP with a grain of salt, but now that we’re a few months beyond the draft, training camp buzz is already building for Jones. Initial reports prior to this past weekend’s preseason games were that he is going to start immediately for the Patriots given his early performance in training camp. That’s exactly what happened last Friday – Jones didn’t disappoint and showed why some have compared him to Pierre-Paul.
Jones started Friday’s game against the Saints and posted a tackle and an assist. If you’re only going by the box score, that’s nothing to get excited about. However, if you watch the first quarter of the game, you’ll see a defensive end who was impressive all around. He drew two consecutive holding calls, pressured the quarterback on five of the fourteen plays he participated in and played well against the run. In post-game interviews, Saints’ left tackle Jermon Bushrod acknowledged Jones’ talent saying, “I think he’s going to be a good player in this league. It was a battle out there. I think he has a bright future ahead of him. He definitely looks the part; a good physical specimen.” That’s beautiful praise from the Saints’ 2011 Pro Bowl tackle.
The rookie’s first preseason game is a precursor to what we can expect from him throughout the season. The second coming of Pierre-Paul? Maybe not, but a double-digit sack season in 2012 for the rookie defense end is not out of the question if he continues to play like he did on Friday. It’s only one preseason game and the regular season is a whole new situation, but Jones looks ready to play at the NFL level. In short, he showed that he knows how to use those long arms to gain leverage and be an impact player.
He may not be JPP-esqe just yet, but Chandler Jones represents a great sleeper for 2012 and should now be considered the top rookie defensive end in dynasty rookie drafts. Now is the time to buy; this may be as cheap as he gets.
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