Jason Jones just looks the part.
Which part? Being able to provide some needed pass in the nickel defense from the three-technique tackle spot? Yeah, that part.
But also occasionally sliding out to the five-technique end spot to give Red Bryant a rest? Yeah, that part, too.
It is the ability of the long-limbed Jones to help in a couple of needed roles that made him attractive to the Seahawks in free agency. While it might have been one of those under-the-radar transactions back in March, his performance in the team’s OTA practices have definitely been more than just blips.
Like Wednesday, when the 6-foot-5, 276-pound Jones used his speed from the tackle spot to blow up one play and then displayed some strength on the edge to stuff another play that was coming his way.
What part of Jones’ game stands out most? “He’s real long,” center Max Unger said after the two-hour practice. “A guy with long arms can create a bunch of issues, especially inside where you usually have a little more compact type of player. So with a guy like that, who’s real long, it’s a different set of rules you’ve kind of got to follow when you’re blocking somebody like that.”
Did someone say long arms? Jones’ are that, and then some. They were measured at 36 3/8th inches at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2008, when he was selected in the second round of the draft by the Tennessee Titans.
Not bad for a late-comer to the sport who grew up with Hoop Dreams, rather than visions of chasing down quarterbacks in the NFL. He didn’t start playing football until his junior year at Lathrup High School in Southfield, Mich., and ended up at Eastern Michigan University because it was the only school to offer him a football scholarship.
“I was hoops,” Jones said. “I grew up watching Michael Jordan. I grew up with the ‘Bad Boys’ – the Pistons, Isaiah Thomas and all those guys. So I grew up a basketball fan.”
One of his three brothers played basketball at the University of Detroit.
“So I grew up watching and going to his games and just sitting downstairs with my dad watching basketball,” Jones said.
He also played tight end early in his football career, but that ended when he got to Eastern Michigan.
“I tried the tight end route. That quickly stopped in college,” Jones said.
What was the issue? “Staying on my feet,” he said with a large smile. “I could catch the ball, but I couldn’t get the yards afterward.”
So defensive end it was. Just like football it was, after Jones decided a free education was the way to go.
But what brought him to the Seahawks?
“Really, they showed me the most love out here,” Jones said.
Playing on a young defense that ranked ninth in the NFL last season – and at a raucous venue that plays to the strength of the defense – didn’t hurt the Seahawks’ in their recruiting effort, either.
Jones on the swagger of the Seahawks’ defense: “I’ve noticed it, just watching them on film. We played similar opponents last year, and just watching them on film they fly around to the ball. We have a Pro Bowl secondary. We have a great D-line with Red, (Brandon) Mebane and all the other guys. So I just came here to add my little thing to it. So I think, yeah, we do have a little swagger about us. We’re very confident as a defense.”
Jones on playing at CenturyLink Field: “For me, playing under the 12th Man as a D-lineman has a great advantage. So we’ve got to get those fans rowdy and get them going.”
He has ventured into the noise factory that is CenturyLink Field in the past – during the 2009 regular-season finale and also for a preseason game in 2010.
With the Titans, Jones had five of his career 15.5 sacks as a rookie. He produced a career-best 39 tackles in 2010. That was while playing as a tackle, and Jones admits he struggled with the dual role of tackle/end last season. It’s the reason he decided to sign a one-year contract with the Seahawks.
“Last year was kind of an off year for me,” he said. “So that one-year deal, that’s the strategy – come back next year and hopefully I can get a long-term deal.”
Unless looks are really deceiving, Jones is heading in that direction.
“Jason has come in here to help a pass rush that needs help,” coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday night during a Town Hall meeting with fans at CenturyLink Field. “We wanted to build that thing up. Jason has already shown he’s got the wiggle and the kind of finesse and the stuff that you’re looking for.