One could only imagine what Arthur Jones was thinking when he found out that the Ravens had signed Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, two defensive linemen who would compete with him for snaps, as he entered his contract year.
Anger? Disappointment? Some other emotion taking audible form in a spray of four-letter words?
“Oh man, I was excited,” Jones said. “One thing about playing in Baltimore, you can’t be afraid of competition. I think it’s a blessing to have two guys who have played that long in the NFL. I look at them as big brothers.”
If that reaction surprises you, it shouldn’t. Jones is one of the most pleasant players on the team. He has a big heart and a big grin pretty much every time you see him. And growing up with a younger brother, Jon, who is the best UFC fighter in the world, and another, Chandler, who was a first-round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 2012, Jones is used to competition.
And so far this summer, Jones has been thriving on it. He has been one of the biggest standouts in training camp and appears to be on track to start at defensive tackle.
For a second straight offseason, Jones did some MMA-style training with his brother Jon, the UFC light heavyweight champion. But this year, he focused more on football-based workouts to improve his explosiveness, balance and agility. He also upped his cardio. He has been more nimble on the field and his bearded face looks a little slimmer.
Jones, who has mostly played at three-technique defensive tackle during camp, has been a load for the interior linemen to handle and has routinely barreled into the backfield.
“I’m not satisfied,” Jones said. “I feel like I’ve showed flashes and made a few plays, but I want to be a guy who makes every play out there. I have high expectations for myself. … Last year was last year and this is a huge year for me and this team. I want to be that guy to be called upon and they know they have nothing to worry about.”
Last season, his third in the NFL, Jones recorded his first career sack and finished with 4.5. He spent time at both three-technique tackle and five-technique end, but the Ravens kept him mostly at three-technique during the playoffs. The difference between the positions doesn’t appear to be that significant. The tackle lines up over the outside shoulder of a guard while the end lines up directly across from one of the offensive tackles. But it’s definitely an adjustment.
“It’s not much, but there is a lot more space out at the five,” Jones said. “But pretty much it’s the same as far as technique -- eyes, hands, alignment, assignment and technique. You’ve got to be a lot sharper when you’re at the five because if you’re at the five, you’re setting the edge if it’s run towards you. You’ve got to stop that ball from getting outside of the defense. Both are a huge responsibility and something I work on every day. I try to play square and work on my football and my hands to get sharper.”
Jones, a two-time New York high school wrestling champ, said he is comfortable playing both spots, but he is able to use his strength and leverage more to his advantage at tackle.
Jones has looked good there next to Haloti Ngata, who has spent a lot of time at nose tackle, and Canty, who has been the five-technique. Spears has been running with the twos.
“Every single day, I pick their brain,” Jones said. “Even though it’s my fourth year, I still have a lot of room for growth. If you watch Chris Canty out there, his ability to pass rush is unbelievable. And if you watch Marcus Spears play the run and Haloti, these are guys who have been doing this for a long time. I think it’s a blessing to compete and battle with these guys and to call them my brothers.”
Think he’s full of it? His wide grin says otherwise.