He’s been called “unblockable” by legends who were once “unblockable.”
He’s been called a game wrecker.
Eagles center Jason Kelce calls him the best defensive tackle in football.
Wherever he lines up on Sunday, Chris Jones, the Kansas City Chiefs’ 6-foot-6, 311-pound defensive lineman, will have to be the focus of the Eagles. He’s probably the best defensive player the Eagles will face this season, when they play the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII on Sunday. There’s no doubt Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will be moving and using Jones in imaginative ways, much like the scheme he created for the New York Giants as their DC when they toppled the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
“Chris Jones is the best D-tackle in the NFL,” Kelce said. “He’s got everything. Whenever you’re playing a defensive lineman, you try to figure out what their strengths are. Is he a quick guy? Strong guy? Long guy? Chris is all of them, and that’s not a combination you like to see. “You can’t bank on trying to know that he’s going to work an edge or do something quick off the ball or run right through you. You can’t hunker down and get ready for power, otherwise he’s going to work an edge. All the things you can do to take away moves that he’s got, he’s got a counter to.”
Where Jones most probably will line up is on the right side, on the Eagles’ left, across from left tackle Jordan Mailata and left guard Landon Dickerson. Kelce, right guard Isaac Seumalo, and right tackle Lane Johnson will surely be asked to help at times, but if Spagnuolo was looking to zone on the weakest link, and there really aren’t any on the Eagles’ front, it would be Mailata.
He’s coming off a decent game in which he sat on San Francisco 49ers’ defensive end Nick Bosa. Although, he’s also had games like the one against the Tennessee Titans, where he had problems with speed rushers zipping by him, as Titans’ linebacker Bud Dupree did on a third-and-14 at the Titans’ 49 with 10:46 left in the first half of the Eagles’ 35-10 win for a sack. Fortunately, on the play, Dupree made illegal contact with Eagles’ quarterback Jalen Hurts, and the Eagles received a first down on a roughing-the-passer call. On the same drive, Mailata lost Dupree again, on third-and-14 at the Titans’ 38, though luckily came back to recover a fumble Dupree caused when he knocked the ball loose from Hurts.
The problem Mailata and the Eagles will have with Jones, who had two sacks in the AFC Championship after a career regular season in which he had 15.5 sacks and 46 pressures, is that he can bullrush you or speed rush you. Blocking Jones is like trying to hit a knuckleball. With the Chiefs’ looping and stunting, he’ll be hard to find, and the times that he is, he’ll hold up two blockers and still find a way to pressure the quarterback. He’s been double-teamed more than any interior lineman in the NFL, and he has rushed from every position along the defensive front. Outside, inside, over the center, on the edge, he’s been a problem.
Johnson knows what’s ahead.
“I feel like what they do is they just try to go down the line and see what mismatches they have,” he said. “And when they find a lane, they’re going to stay there.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written features for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, and his breaking story on Carson Wentz for PhillyVoice on January 21, 2019. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.