Super Bowl Preview: Chris Jones Offers One Last Test for the 49ers Offense
Image Credit: USA TODAY Sports
It’s time. The 49ers at last get a chance to win their first Super Bowl since the height of the Steve Young era in 1994 in their first appearance in the season finale since 2012. To do this they’ll need to take down a Chiefs team with arguably the best quarterback in the league, one of the best receiving corps in football, and a rapidly improving defense.
For years the Chiefs defense struggled to keep offenses anchored in the postseason, but with the addition of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo as well as safety Tyrann Mathieu and edge rusher Frank Clark. Holding the fort against the Texans and Titans in this years’ playoffs is all Patrick Mahomes and company needed to wreck defenses and make the team’s first Super Bowl in 50 years.
But among the pieces on Kansas City’s defense, it’s defensive tackle Chris Jones that’s debatably the most valuable. Jones came off a 19.5 sack filled season and followed that up with 9.5, despite playing through injury. He’s possibly the best interior pass rusher in the AFC and one of the absolute best in the NFL, so the 49ers are dealing with another test on the biggest stage.
So just what do the 49ers need to look for in this 6’6, 310 lb beast? Let’s check the film and find out.
As you’ll no doubt expect from a top tier pass rusher, Jones has ferocious quickness on 1-on-1 matchups, as shown here against the Raiders. His violent footwork allows him to get past the right guard with zero problems, and makes this pass rush look all too easy.
Other times Jones is quite meticulous as a pass rusher. Here he shows a more cautious approach against the Lions, pushing off his right foot, accelerating and using a rip move to wipe away the left guard’s blocking hands. Matthew Stafford has very little time to react, and Jones swoops in for another back breaking sack.
Going into 2019 many questioned if Jones would remain a fit in Spagnuolo’s 4-3 defense, but he proved that and then some. Talent transcends scheme, and a pass rusher with Jones’ level of execution proved a seamless fit into the 4-3 scheme.
Jones doesn’t get a sack here, but his intense pressure forces a throwaway from Kirk Cousins. Watch his violent movement off the snap; Jones’ jerky movement right off the line tricks left guard Pat Elflein into blocking what he thinks is a bull rush from the defensive tackle.
But #95 casts Elflein aside with a club move, and a valiant effort from the center isn’t enough to stop Jones from putting the smackdown on Cousins.
Even when Jones does get double teamed, offenses often see the same results, as proven here. Jones’ rip and club moves are among his deadliest assets in his arsenal of pass rushing tricks, and here his rip move gets by both the left guard and center as he strip sacks Ryan Tannehill.
So whether Jones is aiming for a power rush or a more tactical approach, it doesn’t matter, as he’s been able to rabidly tear apart interior offensive linemen on his way for sacks, quarterback hits, and TFLs. He’s violent yet patient, bulked yet quick, easy to see coming yet unpredictable at the same time, sometimes all at once.
As with other dominant pass rushers, the 49ers can offset Jones’ impact with dosage of the quick passing game, but continuing to rely on the run this time around may not have the same impact. This is why Jimmy Garoppolo will most likely be asked to do more than against the Vikings and Packers.
Frank Clark’s four sacks in the postseason have garnered him significant attention, and with Chris Jones back at full health the Chiefs have two blockbuster pass rushers to attack San Francisco with. It’s Jones, however, that could very well have the biggest impact of the two, as I expect the 49ers to put more attention on Clark.
Time is ticking, and the Super Bowl showdown of a lifetime is drawing oh so near. Chris Jones is a massive test the 49ers must seek to eliminate to further set up the continued success the offense has had in the playoffs.
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