He was that. Jones was consistently excellent in Mississippi State’s victory at Missouri, enough to earn SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week recognition. His execution also earned a generally positive review from Jones’ toughest grader.
That being Jones his own self.
“I felt like it was OK. I felt there were some ways I could still get better, and there were some sacks I could have had.”
The SEC Office saw nothing missing. Nor did Coach Dan Mullen nor defensive coordinator Manny Diaz who agreed it was Jones’ best showing of the junior season. Wait, how could two total tackles win anyone any honor, even if both stops were for losses and one of those a quarterback sack?
“That’s because of consistency,” Jones said. In that theme, Jones will agree with his coaches and peers that he seems to produce at a higher level each game now.
“I feel I’ve got better every week. You know, I’m my biggest critic, and that’s a good thing. That can also be a bad thing. I just try to get better week, do something I didn’t do the previous week.”
Something else Jones does not do is pay much attention to outside talk, whether it be winning awards or getting criticism. Yes, Jones does receive some. Mostly though from folk who simply do not ‘get’ the reality of interior line play, who grade solely off a stat sheet.
Well, the fact is tackles are rarely in positions to pile up the numbers what with all that traffic between them and the ball. This should increase appreciation for what Jones has already achieved. Such as 32 total tackles and 2.5 sacks with four hurries.
Or, just re-watch the Missouri game. But only after a point, said a real expert on line life. Defensive end A.J. Jefferson spilled some Bulldog beans. “I’m not going to lie, there was one play Chris came to the sideline fussing because he didn’t run the play right.
“We still got a three-and-out, but he didn’t run the play right and he tried to fuss at me! After that he was all in the backfield, I mean it was crazy. That’s the hardest I’ve seen him play since I’ve been here.”
Playing hard has been Jones’ great college challenge all along. Not that he’s ever been a slacker, exactly. He just had to recognize he was no longer running wild at Houston High.
And now, it is Jones who has acquired credibility to critique effort from others.
“Some guys don’t know how to play hard. They’ll think they’re going hard and really they aren’t. You’ve got to get that mental aspect, and you have to push yourself, train yourself to go hard every play.” This, Jones said, was his own sophomore season breakthrough.
“It’s the adjustment I had to make. After you start watching film on yourself and everybody is running at a different speed. That’s when you realize you’re not going as fast as you think you’re going.”
Maybe the same sort of progress is showing now from Jones’ interior teammate. Nick James still wears #88, still carries all those pounds, and still woofs it up—literally when chasing a quarterback—on the field. But James is a drastically different Dog in his own right now.
He also completes a pretty potent pairing with Jones. “The chemistry is crazy,” Jones said. “Me and Nick were roommates for like two years, so we’re pretty close. We relate to each other a lot.”
The Bulldog front line, and entire defense for that matter, will need all the chemistry they can mix up and then some this Saturday. Jones used his weekend to get an advance look at Alabama.
“Friday I kind of got into it, see what they like to run. Then I watched the game and picked up on some of the offensive line. So I started pretty early.”
Not, however, that it took him too long to ‘scout’ what Jones and any other SEC veteran of these matchups already know. This is just another Crimson Tide offensive line, Edition 2015.
“Those guys are big and you have to play fundamental football. You just have to stay in your gap, shed, release. Play your gap.” Oh, and one other thing. Maybe the most important of all, even.
“You can’t get bored doing the same thing with those guys because they’ll run the same play over and over. And as soon as you make a mistake that’s a touchdown. So you have to play your gap over and over, you can’t get bored doing the same thing.”
Well, unless it is making tackles, scoring sacks, and winning SEC awards. That sort of consistency never gets boring.