The changes the Denver Broncos made on the defensive line should be beneficial to Dre'Mont Jones. He has improved in each season of his career, but he has struggled to have that break-out campaign, keeping him as a darkhorse, burgeoning star.
With the coaching changes and defensive additions, the Broncos hope that Jones finally takes that step in 2022. If we dig into his history, maybe we can get a clue as to whether he'll take that next step or not.
As Jones enters the fourth year of his career, he will be only 25 years old, turning 26 in January. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, and went to Saint Ignatius High School — one of the better prep football programs and winners of 11 state championships.
Jones didn't initially play football in high school and only joined the team for his final two years. Despite that, he ended up as a four-star recruit and the No. 77 prospect in Ohio and No. 170 in the country. So he decided to stay nearby and go to Ohio State.
Jones redshirted as a true freshman but ended up as a starter in 2016 and was a mainstay on the Buckeyes' defense. During his three years, he played 1,780 total snaps on defense, with the most of them (821) coming in his final year.
Of the 1,780 snaps, 979 of them came as a pass rusher, where Jones picked up 91 total pressures and 11 sacks, 10 of which came in the final year. While he played good football consistently throughout his career, he took a significant step forward as a pass rusher in the final year.
During his college career, Jones also picked up 64 total stops while missing only four tackles. The first two years on the field were good on tape, but the production didn't quite match. His final year was when it all paid off and was at the perfect time as he entered the 2020 NFL draft.
Jones wasn't invited to any of the pre-draft bowl games but did get an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine. Unfortunately, it wasn't a great showing at the Combine, where he only measured above the 50th percentile in his wingspan (61st), arm length (63rd), and vertical jump (52nd).
Jones' relative athletic score was 6.11, and the average for interior defensive linemen is 4.33. However, with his tape and production, especially over the final year, there was enough for the Broncos to select him in the third round with the 71st overall pick.
Jones didn't see the field much as a rookie for multiple reasons, but he did play 283 total snaps on defense. It was a solid showing, but of those 283 snaps, only 64 of them didn't come as a pass rusher. It wasn't the best showing, especially against the run.
Jones showed right away the capability as a pass rusher, though, especially to close out the season. With 23 total pressures and four sacks on the season, three of which came in the Week 16 game, it led to high hopes as the Broncos prepared him for Year 2.
Jones eventually won the starting job in Year 2 but it wasn't right away. He was a rotational player on the depth chart until injuries gave him an opportunity.
While Jones' run defense was solid, he continued to grow as a pass rusher picking up 30 total pressures and 6.5 sacks. It was enough to guarantee him the starting job entering the third year of his career.
It typically takes two to three years for interior defensive linemen to develop in the NFL, so expectations were high for Year 3. Jones still showed issues as a run defender on his 191 snaps vs. the rush. However, he took yet another step as a pass rusher picking up 40 total pressures, which was 22nd most among interior defensive linemen.
Jones also ranked high in Pro Football Focus' pass-rush productivity and pass-rush win rate for defensive linemen who played at least 350 pass-rush snaps. It was clear he was an underrated force on defense, and he made splash plays in every game.
As he enters the fourth year of his career, Jones is once again poised to be a starter on the Broncos' defensive line. There's no question that he is a talented pass rusher and a good player, but Denver still needs more, primarily against the run. There have been consistent issues throughout his career, and in order to become a great player, he needs to be more rounded.
This is a contract year for Jones, and he is poised to get a sizeable deal, but if he wants to really capitalize, improving his run defense will be the way. Free-agent newcomer D.J. Jones will be a big help against the run, and the new pass-rushers should help Dre'Mont get after quarterbacks.
Denver has set Jones up to have a huge year, but he has to go out there and take advantage of it.
Follow Erick on Twitter @ErickTrickel.
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