Dre’Mont Jones has often been labeled a breakout candidate since his 2019 rookie season. In 2022, the talented defensive end is going to do more than breakout — he's going to be one of the top-tier interior pass rushers in the NFL. The Denver Broncos need this type of production from him to have success on the defensive side of the ball.
Jones has improved each season he has been in the league, in nearly every major pass rushing category. The one that is curiously not an improvement in 2021 was his ability to sack the quarterback. His 5.5 sacks were a decline from his career-high 6.5 takedowns the year prior. The reason it's curious: all other metrics indicated a net positive increase in both numbers and rate.
Jones' quarterback pressures increased from six in 2019 to 16 in 2020. In 2021, that number jumped to 21. His pressure rate was one pressure every 47 snaps in 2019, 1 every 35 in 2020, and 1 for every 29 in 2021, indicating improvement was not directly attributed to an increase in snaps. The same can be said for quarterback hurries and knockdowns.
Hurries went from one in 2019 to six in 2020. Then, in 2021, those increased to nine. In 2019, he had 1 hurry every 284 snaps; in 2020 it moved to 1 per 93; and 1 per 68 in 2021. His quarterback knockdowns improved similarly. With this type of progression across the board, his sacks should have also increased.
But they didn't, which means he wasn’t finishing his pass rush often enough last season. Sack statistics are not the be-all-end-all measure of a defender's performance, though they do have a significant impact on stopping drives. Based on a prior analysis performed by yours truly, during any drive that a sack occurred, the offense only scored points on 4% of their drives. It is an important metric for shutting down an opposing offense.
Improvement in all these metrics should occur again this season based on his trend. The only question mark is in finishing those pass rushes with a sack. That should change this season, especially if the offense can get leads and create more pass-rushing opportunities.
The other bit of information that should give people hope for improvement is that Jones is only 25 years old. Analysis has shown that defensive linemen continue to improve from the age of 24 to 29, with several significant performance outliers in the 25- to 26-year-old range. Defensive linemen peak between 28 and 29. Furthermore, defensive linemen have large jumps in performance compared to their own mean at ages 25 and 26.
Jones is coming into his peak years and he could have a large jump in performance based on his age range. Everything is pointing to a career year in 2022, and that will be a major boon for the Broncos' defense.