By WG RAMIREZ – Associated Press
HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) – After 10 very successful years in the NFL, it would have been easy for defensive lineman Chandler Jones to step onto the Las Vegas Raiders facility with an inflated ego.
His 107 1/2 sacks over the past decade is more than any other player in the NFL, and he ranks second in the league behind Pittsburgh’s TJ Watt with 14 forced fumbles in the past three seasons.
But bravery isn’t something you learn from growing up in Endicott, New York.
Instead, a positive attitude and a healthy dose of humility ensure Jones fits well into his new team.
“Being humble is something I definitely grew up with and also the culture I come from,” Jones said Thursday after the off-season training activities. “I say it all the time, I was that kid that said, ‘Hey, when I grow up, I want to be an NFL football player. Now that I’ve been at it 10 years, I understand the hardship of this job but this opportunity I’ve had.”
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An opportunity that gave Jones a chance to reconnect with people he was familiar with when he began his New England career, including coach Josh McDaniels and defense coordinator Pat Graham.
Jones, who spent four seasons with the Patriots and six with the Cardinals, signed a three-year, $51 million contract with the Raiders in March.
“It’s a blessing to play for so long, but having your dream job every day is very humbling and it’s something you want to do well and at a high level,” Jones said. “Well, I’m proud of that. And like I said, I’m consistent, but just enjoy the work, enjoy the football.”
With Jones playing fourth-year pro Maxx Crosby, the Raiders now have two of Pro Football Focus’ best nine-edge rushers of last season as they prepare for one of the toughest game schedules in the league.
McDaniels said his familiarity with the four-time Pro Bowler’s pass-rushing techniques made him an easy target this offseason, a takeover he believed would replace Yannick Ngakoue, who died the day before in exchange for Rock Ya-Sin was traded to the Indianapolis Colts. Jones signed with Vegas.
“He’s got this long, levered body that’s really hard to hit, and he’s got a lot of different pass rush moves,” McDaniels said. “He’s got a great feel for the different people who are protecting and he’s been able to play a lot of different places up front. … I know he’s in his 30s, but I see Chandler as a guy who’s still playing at a really high level, and he’s playing at that level on all three downs.
Crosby, Pro Football Focus’ second-ranked edge rusher last season and someone who is expected to lead the Las Vegas defensive line, said he enjoyed his new teammate and saw Jones as the immediate leader for the team .
“I keep asking him questions,” Crosby said. “The cool thing about Chandler is that he’s one of the humblest guys I’ve ever met. Super humble for the things he’s done. He asks me stuff all the time and it throws me off because I’m looking at his career and that’s something I aspire to. You know, he’s been incredible from day one and he’s definitely someone I look up to.”
While the 32-year veteran said he tried to match Crosby’s agility and youthful exuberance in the OTAs’ first two weeks, defensive line coach Frank Okam said working with someone of Jones’ caliber helped everyone.
“You can see how hard he runs to the ball, he leads by example with his effort and I think that’s a testament to his longevity in his career and why he’s been successful for so long,” Okam said. “I always like to take the brains of someone who has 100+ sacks because I’ve never done that in my own career. So you can always learn how to watch the game, coaching points, film study points, anything to help these young people get used to the game faster, I’m all ears.”
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