Justin Jones may have been an afterthought following the selection of Jerry Tillery, but it hasn’t stopped him from developing quickly.
Justin Jones came into the NFL immediately criticized and under scrutiny, either because he was over-drafted, or not the right player, or just simply another one of Tom Telesco’s famously terrible third-round picks. After massive busts from players like Chris Watt, Craig Mager, and Max Tuerk from the same round in different drafts, there wasn’t much positive buzz surrounding a player at a not particularly exciting position.
With the addition of Jerry Tillery and Cortez Broughton in the first and seventh rounds, respectively, Jones was slated to become an afterthought; after all, each, though more pass-rushers than lane-cloggers, were much more fascinating prospects. Yet, Jones remained atop the depth chart paired alongside veteran Brandon Mebane. Surely that was just a formality, right?
Instead, Tillery has been injured and there hasn’t been any chatter about Broughton. But for Jones, it’s been nothing but positive, including some high praise from one player who works alongside him:
Brandon Mebane on fellow defensive tackle Justin Jones: "The sky's the limit for him. I think he has the potential to be a Pro Bowler. It's been real good to see the progress that he's making." pic.twitter.com/xHW6D2Asij
— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) August 4, 2019
Pro-Bowl in just his second season, and his first as the penciled-in starter? Fans would love to see it, but maybe it’s not a realistic goal for Jones. However, one thing holds true: There is a lot of positive buzz around No. 93 right now, more than I would have expected at this point in his career. It’s clear both the coaching staff and the players have been amazed, if not surprised, at just how far he has come.
In 2018, Jones averaged 28.99 percent of the team’s defensive snaps through his first nine games played. In his remaining six, Jones was bumped up to an average of about 34 percent of the defensive snaps. His best game came in the postseason in Baltimore, where he notched a sack, four combined tackles, a tackle for loss, and two quarterback hits. It appears as if the coaching staff is putting him in the best position to try and replicate that same success this year, and he is likely the Week 1 starter in their base defense. Jones is developing more rapidly than expected, and it’s more than the Chargers themselves may have expected out of their former third-round pick.