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When Justin Jones arrived on the first day of voluntary OTAs at Halas Hall, the feeling could be compared to the first day of school. Everything was completely new for the 25-year-old free-agent acquisition.
Long gone are the days with the Los Angeles sun and the Chargers’ powder blues.
In is “Bear weather” and the team’s iconic uniforms.
One thing Jones is eager to learn about is how he will mesh with his new Bears teammates.
“You want your team to be one well-oiled machine,” Jones said in the Chicago Bears’ 1920 Football Drive video. “That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
For any well-oiled machine to work, each part or player needs to execute their particular assignment. Jones, who signed a two-year, $12 million contract, plays arguably the most important position in the Bears’ 4-3 defense: the 3-tech.
Even though the position comes with plenty of responsibility, Jones has openly embraced the challenge.
“I take pride in knowing what I do,” Jones said. “I take pride in knowing what the guy next to me is doing. I take pride in knowing who’s behind me and what they’re doing. I take pride in knowing this scheme. I take pride in that. That’s why.”
Jones also noted that he wakes “up every day thinking about” how important his role is in the defense. Coach Matt Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Willliams will need Jones to not only recognize what he means to the team but to also play at a high level for the entire unit to have success.
“The 3-technique is the penetrator. He’s the anchor of the defense,” Jones said. “You have to trust the 3-technique that he’s going to work. You don’t set the edge for the 3-technique, the defense – we’re going to get down the field, we’re knocking guys back, we’re being aggressive, we’re being disruptive, making plays in the backfield, having fun together, party at the quarterback.”
When Eberflus was the defensive coordinator in Indianapolis last season, his unit had plenty of reasons to celebrate. A big reason can be credited to DeForest Buckner, who played the 3-tech position for Eberflus. Buckner’s 68 total tackles, seven sacks and 18 quarterback hits helped the Colts’ defense finish eighth in total DVOA last season, according to Football Outsiders. Buckner also earned himself a spot in the Pro Bowl and was named an All-Pro in Eberflus’ defense in 2020.
So, Eberflus knows exactly what a dominant 3-tech looks like and how much of an impact a player of that caliber can have in his defense.
Jones has not earned those accolades, but the 6-foot-3, 309-pound defensive lineman did achieve some career highs last season. He made 37 total tackles, three sacks, five tackles for loss and had two fumble recoveries.
Jones did this while only playing in 11 games, but that has also been one of his problems — health. Jones has missed games each season since he entered the league as a third-round draft pick in 2018. That will have to change if Jones wants to live up to his own expectations.
For now, as the Bears look forward to veteran minicamp and then training camp in July, Eberflus is liking what he is seeing out of his all-important 3-tech.
“Obviously I love the athletic ability, I love the man, I love his attitude,” Eberflus said. “He’s working super hard, and again, the evaluation will continue to go all the way through training camp, like we said. When we put the pads on, then we get our true evaluation. But where he is right now, we are extremely excited about that.”
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