As he rolled through footage of the Chiefs’ 2017 season, coach Andy Reid formulated a comprehensive evaluation of his defense. Among other things, the process preserved defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s job, and weeks later, Reid pointed toward a late-season adjustment Sutton had made with one specific player.
With a struggling pass rush, Sutton switched Jones from the inside of the defensive line to the end, and Jones responded with three sacks in his final four games.
“He made a big-time adjustment down the stretch where he moved Chris outside and started moving people around to get the rush rolling there a little bit better,” Reid said. “I thought that was strategically from him a bold move and a good move, and Chris answered the bell on it in our pass rush.”
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Reid has been tight-lipped if the adjustment will become a permanent fixture in 2018, but the first clue arrived Monday.
Jones walked into the Chiefs practice facility with a noticeably slimmer physique. He says he dropped 25 pounds during the offseason. Although the weight loss is at least partially an attempt to alleviate some pressure off his knees, it’s no coincidence the timing of it falls after last season’s move.
“Last year, later in the season, I ended up playing the outside more,” Jones said. “Just kinda trimming down my weight where I can play three-technique nose or get outside on the end.”
The offseason included a second straight knee surgery for Jones, who also had his knee scoped last July. “It’s going well,” he said of his rehab from the most recent operation, to repair a torn MCL.
In that sense, playing with a lighter frame — Jones was listed at 310 pounds last season — could protect the knees. His teammate, defensive end Allen Bailey, surmised as much.
But that factor went unmentioned as Jones recapped his motivation behind the decision to tweak his diet, eliminating pork and adding more vegetables. Losing weight will allow for quicker movements, a necessity for rushing the quarterback from the outside rather than middle.
“There’s always ways for improvement,” he said. “... Just looking at areas I can better myself. Look at areas I wasn’t as successful in. Try to critique some things I can get better at.”
Hand placement, leverage and stances were among those conclusions, but Jones has also spent considerable time mastering schemes. A late-season switch compelled him to learn the position on the fly. An offseason allows for time, a bit of patience and, yes, better preparing his body.
“That’s why I’m wearing this jacket — so nobody see how small I actually am,” Jones said, dressed in a Chiefs red hooded sweatshirt. “You gotta hide the figures."
Jones finished with 6 1/2 sacks last season, but three came in a Week 2 win against eventual Super Bowl-champion Philadelphia. He went the ensuing 10 weeks without a full sack.
Sliding to defensive end triggered rejuvenation in production. He had sacks in wins against all three divisional opponents in the final month of the season. The Chiefs won their final four games, allowing 16.3 points per game. They gave up 22.8 in their initial 12.
“All of a sudden you (had) Chris and you had (Justin Houston) coming off the edge, and they were rolling,” Reid said. “It was fun to watch.”