When an athlete enters his second season in a professional league, the term "sophomore slump" often gets tossed around. This term will have absolutely no affiliation with Chandler Jones, the second-year defensive end for the New England Patriots.
Jones has a very bright future ahead of him.
After showing glimpses of stardom as a rookie, the time is now for the former Syracuse Orange standout to make every NFL fan remember the name.
The 2013-14 season will be a big one for the 6'5" defensive threat. He has taken the offseason not only to recover from nagging ankle injuries, which slowed him down after a tremendous start in 2012, but he has also added some muscle according to NESN's Luke Hughes.
"I had a great offseason. I put on a lot of weight, a lot of muscle actually," Jones told Hughes, citing that he had added 10 pounds, mostly consisting of muscle mass.
Last season, Jones was establishing himself as a legitimate threat as an edge pass-rusher. Then came the ankle issues. He suffered a right ankle injury in the Patriots' 59-24 thrashing of the Indianapolis Colts, causing the defensive end to miss the team's next two games.
When he returned to action, it was clear that Jones was not playing at full strength. He recorded just 11 total tackles in the final four regular-season games and did not register any sacks after the injury. Jones also injured his left ankle in the Pats' playoff victory over the Houston Texans.
Still, he finished with 45 total tackles and six sacks, behind only Rob Ninkovich for the team lead in sacks. All six of Jones' sacks came during the first eight weeks of the season.
Jones also forced three fumbles in the first six games of the 2012 season, including one in the season opener against the Tennessee Titans, which Dont'a Hightower scooped up and brought back for a touchdown.
Here is that play:
Expect Jones to produce at an even higher level this season than he did during his first eight impressive games as an NFL player. The former first-round pick is healthy, strong and determined to return at an extremely high level.
Last month, Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com listed Jones as one of the best edge-rushers in the league. Rosenthal had Jones as the No. 15 edge-rusher, not far behind the likes of Julius Peppers and Mario Williams.
"Jones could be New England's most complete pass-rusher since Willie McGinest," explained Rosenthal. "It wouldn't be a shock if he's a top-five guy before long."
When you are comparing a player to a Patriots legend such as McGinest, who is No. 2 in franchise history in sacks, you know big things are coming. Jones' balance of size, speed and strength makes it difficult for any offensive lineman to match up with him.
A popular comparison has linked Jones to New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Though the two possess slightly different styles, both have great size and know how to get into a quarterback's head.
Jones does not have to be compared to anybody, however, as he is likely about to make a name for himself in 2013. Jones could very easily produce an improved sophomore campaign, just as Pierre-Paul did when he recorded 16.5 sacks in his second season.
Just last season, J.J. Watt corralled 20.5 sacks after recording just 5.5 sacks as a rookie the year before. Chandler Jones may indeed explode onto the scene as a sophomore pass-rusher with a huge increase in sacks.
Jones talked to NESN's Luke Hughes about the transition from his first year into his second season.
You go into your rookie year, and your rookie year you get those pregame jitters. Now, I’m going into sophomore, you’re more fluid and more comfortable even communicating with guys next to you. Less thinking and more just green light — going. So, I’m excited to attack this Year 2.
Patriots fans, get ready for a big season out of Jones. If not for those two ankle injuries, Jones' numbers would have been even greater, and he was only a rookie.
Jones is a huge reason why the Patriots defense will very likely improve in 2013. He is confident and ready to attack, and he will make a name for himself.
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