On the first night of the NFL’s legal tampering period the Denver Broncos agreed to terms on a three-year, $30 million contract with defensive lineman DJ Jones, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers. Standing 6′ and 305 lbs. with 32 and 1/2” arms, Jones is a bowling ball with vines, which helps him to hold strong at the point of attack with the way he can win the leverage battles against taller opponents.
Jones played his way to a starting role in 2019 before a season ending ankle injury derailed his chance to contribute to the Niners’ Super Bowl run. He returned with gusto in 2020 and found more snaps waiting for him following DeForest Buckner’s trade to the Indianapolis Colts. He made the most of them with 13 pressures and three sacks in addition to his ever stout run defense. A free agent after the season, he returned to San Francisco on a one-year, $3.5 million contract. It proved extremely beneficial.
For the first time in Jones’ NFL career he found a chance to play in every game the Niners played and once again demonstrated he’s a top shelf run stopper who can contribute against the pass. In 20 games he finished with 62 tackles including 12 for a loss, three sacks, and two forced fumbles.
Fresh off the best season of his career Jones signed with the Broncos. Can he do it again? I spoke with Niners Nation’s Jordan Elliott to find out, and to get a better idea of what Jones can bring his new team.
1st and 10
What does DJ Jones bring to the table? What do you see as his strengths? Are there any weaknesses Broncos Country should be aware of?
Elliot: DJ Jones was one of the most important players on a relatively loaded 49ers roster. His impact on the run game gets a lot of attention, highlighted by his #1 ranking in run stop win rate among interior defensive linemen in 2021. However Jones isn’t just a gap eating run stuffer, what he brings as a pass rusher is extremely valuable as well.
In terms of strengths, I would immediately point to his athleticism. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone hovering around 300 pounds who is as slippery as DJ Jones is. His ability to move laterally and shed blocks is phenomenal, something that is heavily influenced by the elite footwork that Jones possesses.
In terms of weakness, the main thing I would point to is Durability. Although Jones is coming off a season where he played in all 17 regular season games, he was also the first time in his five year career that he did not miss any games due to injury. When he is on the field he is an incredible talent, but the injury history is certainly something to monitor
This was the most underrated play of the game imo
With Philadelphia facing a 3rd & 1 in 49ers territory, DJ Jones absolutely OBLITERATES this rush attempt up the middle to force a FG attempt
The FG attempt that was blocked by Kinlaw
Keeping the game within striking distance pic.twitter.com/XgPUZo4jHa
—Jordan Elliott (@splash_cousin) September 21, 2021
2nd and 9
I’d be lying if I said DJ is the Jones I hoped the Broncos would sign on the first day of free agency. To be fair, I do like what I’ve seen of him. My concern is that Paton signed a player coming off a career year to a pretty substantial deal. Do you think Jones can continue to produce as a pass rusher when he doesn’t have Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa around him?
Elliot: I do. Jones is someone who I think excelled regardless of his surroundings on the 49ers defensive line. His get off and ability to maximize his own off the charts athleticism is something that I think will transcend scheme and the personnel around him. I expect him to
DJ Jones is definitely at the top of my list if we look to FA to plug holes and try to fix the run defense. Big, powerful 3t with great balance against doubles, good hands, good eyes and shows enough traits that can translate to a gap and a half defense. pic.twitter.com/ySDbZ5DMTd
—Robby (@DavisBreakdowns) March 9, 2022
3rd and 7
The Broncos recently traded Shelby Harris to the Seahawks as part of the package to acquire Russell Wilson. They also have a nose tackle in Mike Purcell who looks like a potential cap casualty. What do you see as Jones’ ideal role going forward?
Elliot: So there is definitely going to be a bit of an adjustment going from a base 4-3 defense to a 3-4. Having said that, I don’t expect it to be much of an issue as Jones had plenty of reps at 0 tech (one of his most memorable plays in his career came from 0t when he blew up Seahawks center Joey Hunt on monday night football in 2019) as well as at the 1 tech spot.
Jones’ ideal spot is probably 0t in base defense and 1t in nickel/sub packages. He was extremely effective out of both spots.
4th and inch
How do you feel about the Niners losing Jones?
Elliot: Honestly I am a little bummed. DJ was one of my favorite players to cover during my time at Niners Nation. On top of being a phenomenal talent, he was an exceptional teammate and someone who always left it all on the field.
I expected this outcome given the 49ers current financial situation and the fact they invested heavily at the position when they spent a top 15 pick on Javon Kinlaw in 2020. Now that it’s become a reality, it is a fairly tough pill to swallow. Jones is the kind of player any team would be lucky to have, and someone who is far from easily replaceable.
Underrated player for a long time. High-level run defender that can make splash plays as a rusher in certain matchups. https://t.co/NlgcfaXNRo
—Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) March 15, 2022
Do you like this signing for the Broncos?
Elliot: I do. I will echo everything I have mentioned above. Jones is a player who is going to give you tremendous flexibility along the interior of the defensive line, and impact games by being a force as a pass rusher as well as a stalwart in the run game. He is a player who is never going to shy away from putting in the extra work, and someone who will regularly handle the dirty work and make game altering plays.