Abry Jones, defensive tackle for the Jacksonville Jaguars, stepped up his game in 2016 and became one of the NFL’s most improved interior defensive linemen.
When the Jacksonville Jaguars lost Roy Miller to injury in the 2016 season the defensive tackle position took a big hit. Or so it seemed.
Fortunately for the Jags, Abry Jones, a 2013 undrafted player, stepped up in a big way. Just how big? Jones was rewarded with a new, four-year contract in 2017 worth $16 million.
Jones’ play didn’t go unnoticed outside Jacksonville, either. The Jags’ defensive tackle also received an accolade from Pro Football Focus in the site’s list of the most improved defensive players. Writes John Gatta:
"There’s no doubt he earned his four-year contract because of his much-improved play in 2016. Prior to this past season, Jones failed to rank higher than 82nd at his position until finishing as our 21st-ranked interior defender this year. He saw an uptick in pass-rush effectiveness, but, like Jenkins, the main reason for his better play was due to his prowess in the run game. In 2015, Jones made a run stop on only 5.1 percent of run snaps and finished the season with 10 run stops. 2016 was a different story, as he totaled 22 run stops, finishing with a run-stop percentage of 8.7 that ranked 20th among 75 qualified interior defenders."
That improvement (from 56.6 to 81.5 in PFF’s measurements) was massive for Jones. He showed that he wasn’t just a player with high upside but a player that could actually deliver on that potential.
Many players in the NFL never even scratch the surface of their potential. Jones, however, delivered.
While the Jags continue to re-stock the defense through free agency and, soon, the 2017 NFL Draft, Jones’ role should still be a significant focus in the 2017 season. He is more than just a rotational player now, stepping up as a starter in nine games last season and proving he is worth every snap.
Kudos to Jones for turning in a solid year. If he can take another step forward in 2017 he may just be one of the league’s best defensive tackles going forward.