After the Tennessee Titans traded Jurrell Casey in March, DaQuan Jones became the longest-tenured member of the defense. In a way, the 28-year-old defensive tackle is now the old guy in the room.
Entering his final season on the three-year, $21 million extension he signed in 2018, Jones recognizes that his run as the senior member of the unit could be short-lived. While he would like to prolong his stay in Nashville, Jones also knows that he can only control his mindset and play on the field. Everything else will fall into place.
“I'm not really sure, but I would love to stay here. Tennessee is my home,” Jones said during a video press conference Friday. “With the whole deal, that's something my agent and the team will talk about, discus and all I can do show up every day and continue to grind.”
A fourth-round selection by the Titans in 2014 out of Penn State, Jones has done nothing but grind since his rookie season.
While he has no Pro Bowl or All-Pro honors to show for his efforts, Jones has done an exceptional job at what’s been asked of him as a nose tackle. In the Titans’ scheme, his primary job is to occupy blockers so that others, particularly the inside linebackers, can run free and make tackles.
Jones has averaged roughly 44 tackles per season and has recorded just seven career sacks over six years (3.5 of those sacks came in 2017). Among Tennessee players who played at least 200 snaps in 2019, Pro Football Focus rated Jones fourth-best overall on defense (fifth against the run, fourth in the pass rush).
Although he has enjoyed a good amount of personal success, team success was hard to come by early on. He appeared in seven games (one start) as a rookie before playing all 16 games as a starter in 2015. The Titans record during those two seasons combined: an abysmal 5-27.
Jones played a big part in the Titans’ postseason runs in 2017 and 2019, and that, he explained, enables him to appreciate how things have changed for the better.
“It's way different. I mean, the vibe in here is crazy,” Jones said. “I know how it feels to go through a 2-14 season. It's not fun, at all. I mean, the joy is not in it. It definitely gets to a very cutthroat part of the business. Every day they're bringing in new pieces to try to fit in a position. So, I mean for me to go in and be on a team like this is a blessing.”
As Jones has his sights set on the 2020 season, he will have someone behind him competing for his snaps.
In April, the Titans selected Larrell Murchison, a defensive tackle by way of North Carolina State, in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. A two-year starter in college, Murchison was a team captain and took home second-team All-ACC honors as a senior, when he finished among the conference’s top 10 with seven sacks.Eventually, he could make Jones expendable, but the veteran won’t look too far ahead. The opportunity in front of him matters most.
“I just come to work every day, put my head down and plow away,” Jones said. “Really, that’s all I do. It’s crazy to think that I'm the only guy here from even when we went 2-14 [in 2014]. It’s a blessing at the end of the day, but I'm a guy that comes in with my head down to work. I'm just thankful.”