By Matt Vensel
5:00 PM EDT, May 20, 2013
The Ravens have bolstered the talent and depth on their defensive line this offseason with the additions of Chris Canty and Marcus Spears and the selection of big nose tackle Brandon Williams in last month’s NFL draft.
But with all that shuffling on the defensive line, what role will fourth-year defensive end Arthur Jones have?
Among Ravens, only defensive tackle Haloti Ngata played more snaps on the defensive line last season than Jones, who played at least 32 snaps in 14 of the team’s final 15 games, including playoffs. He averaged 42 defensive snaps in the playoffs, including 51 in the 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.
Jones, who made 47 tackles last season, has predominantly been a run defender during his NFL career. But the 2010 fifth-round pick flashed pass-rush ability late in the year, recording 4.5 sacks in a three-game stretch against the San Diego Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins. He also sacked speedy 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick once in the Super Bowl victory.
The Ravens thought highly enough of the 26-year-old to place a second-round tender on him during the offseason. He signed the tender, ensuring that he will be in Baltimore in 2013, but he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next spring.
His more pressing concern, though, will be fending off free-agent signings Canty and Spears for a starting spot. Pernell McPhee, Terrence Cody and DeAngelo Tyson are also batting for playing time, though the Ravens have said that McPhee, so far a more productive pass rusher, will see some snaps at rush linebacker.
Jones, who weighs 315 pounds, might be the best run defender out of the bunch. He was usually on the field in early downs, when there was a greater chance that teams would run the football. Pro Football Focus gave him a positive grade against the run in 2012 and credited him with 25 defensive stops, second to Ngata among Ravens defensive linemen. They say he missed just one tackle.
But as is often the case in the NFL, Jones will have to carve out a role all over again in offseason workouts and training camp.
Canty, Spears and McPhee will be his main contenders, but from the Ravens’ perspective, quality options are a good thing to have, especially after finishing 20th in rushing defense last season.
If Jones’ development continues to trend upward, though, you can count on him playing meaningful snaps for the Ravens in 2013 -- and potentially cashing in on a second contract here or elsewhere.
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