For a rookie who's seen an average of about 15-20 snaps per game, the Denver Broncos are getting a big bang for their buck with Dre'Mont Jones. The third-round defensive lineman has spent most of this season as a rotational piece upfront for Vic Fangio but despite his limited snaps, he's found a way to make a sizable impact.
Week 16 was a good example of Jones' knack for making a play and being around the ball. The 6-foot-3, 281-pound D-lineman tallied two sacks in the Broncos' 27-17 victory over the Detroit Lions, to go along with four tackles (three solo).
Two of those tackles were for a loss, helping to set up his defense in favorable down-and-distance situations. What made Jones' performance that much more impressive was the fact that he pulled it off despite being injured.
Jones has battled an ankle injury for a few weeks and missed the Broncos' Week 15 throwdown at Arrowhead. Heading into Week 16, he was a limited participant in practice all week and when he went down to the field for pre-game warmups to test out that ankle, he erred on the side of playing.
That's one way a rookie can earn the respect of his teammates. After all, how many veterans who suit up and play a majority share of snaps on gameday are 100% healthy and unscathed come Week 16? They're few and far between.
Part of being a pro football player is gutting through pain and playing sometimes at less than 100%. Jones not only pushed through the discomfort, he elevated his game to make a huge impact for his team. It earned him that respect from his teammates and coaches, to go along with a game ball.
“It’s been good," head coach Vic Fangio said on Monday in regards to Jones' rookie season. "I think the last few weeks—he had a pretty good sprained ankle and a lot of guys wouldn’t have played yesterday with what he had, but he wanted to play. I think that’s a good indication of who he is as a guy and he got rewarded with a couple of sacks. Those are the kind of guys you want on your team.”
On the season, Jones has appeared in 13 games as a depth piece, totaling 13 tackles (eight solo), with three sacks, an interception, three tackles for a loss, five quarterback hits and two tipped passes at the line of scrimmage. There's not a team in the NFL who wouldn't covet that level of production from a backup D-lineman who sees 25% of his team's defensive snaps.
Suffice to say, it portends well for Jones' future as a fixture on Fangio's D-line. The former Ohio State Buckeye will need to continue to work on his craft as a run stopper but there's no question he can bring an immediate impact already as a backfield penetrator and sack artist.
Jones just has to become a little more stout at the point of attack and anchor better against blocks and double-teams. Give him time. If the early returns are any indication, the Broncos may have hit this particular third-round draft pick out of the park.