The Tennessee Titans have conveyed an important message to defensive tackle Jason Jones. While he might be the heir apparent to Albert Haynesworth at right defensive tackle, the Titans aren’t expecting him replace the two-time All Pro.
It’s a message Jones, a second-year man from Eastern Michigan, said he has received loud and clear.
“I don’t feel any pressure. I don’t put any pressure on myself,” Jones said. “I just try to go out there and get coached well and listen to the veterans on the team. I feel I have the ability to be a starter in the league.”
What those coaches and veterans are telling Jones, who had five sacks, 31 tackles and three forced fumbles as a rookie, is to simply be the best player he can be. Jones need not concern himself with any comparisons to Haynesworth, who left for a $100 million deal with the Washington Redskins.
“The first question everybody asks is, ‘How do you replace him? How do you fill that void?’ I don’t think anybody is really worried about it,” defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. “I think we’re happy with, the guys we’ve got. You don’t go out there and try to find the next Albert Haynesworth, but you go out there and try to find guys that fit your system and plug in guys who can make plays.”
As for the compare and contrast between Jones and Haynesworth, their styles probably couldn’t be much more different.
Haynesworth had weight issues at times in his Titans career, but finally got it under control in his final seasons in Tennessee at between 330 and 340 pounds. Jones, on the other hand, played last season around 270 pounds, but has bulked up to 280 this off-season with a goal of 285 pounds by training camp.
“We’re similar as far as making plays in the backfield and being disruptive. But he’s a big human being,” Jones said. “He’s 330 pounds, so there are certain things he can do that I can’t. I’m more of a speed guy, a shifty guy who will surprise you with power, whereas he just comes at you and has all the power.”
But just as Haynesworth was versatile on the line, Vanden Bosch believes Jones can have a similar impact, albeit in a different way.
“Jason is a versatile player. For a defensive tackle, he’s really quick and athletic. He’s got enough speed to actually play defensive end, but he brings the strength of a defensive tackle,” Vanden Bosch said. “There’s a lot of different things we can do with him. I don’t think we’re going to plug him in, and he’s Albert. I think we’re going to play around and see what he can do best and how we can utilize it.”
Defensive line coach Jim Washburn says he has dreaded being asked the Haynesworth question the entire off-season, but it sounds like he already has an answer in Jones and the rest of the Titans defensive line through a collective effort, especially if Jones and young players like ends Jacob Ford and William Hayes step forward in 2009.
“I dreaded this when he left, because every person was going to ask me what we’re going to do with Albert gone. I’m just going to coach the guys we’ve got and we’re going to be fine,” Washburn said. “If Jason, Jacob [Ford] and Will [Hayes] step up we won’t miss anybody. We’ll roll on.”
Jones simply sees it not as an opportunity to replace Haynesworth, but a chance to make his own mark in the NFL as a starting defensive lineman.
“I’m excited, because it’s an opportunity for me to grow more as a player in the NFL. I’m excited just to start in the NFL and being a starter on the field means a lot,” Jones said. “I definitely want to exceed the number I had last year. I want to have more than five sacks, but we’re just looking to be the best defensive line in the league.”
If that goal is reached, a part of that credit must go to Washburn, whose knack for squeezing the most out of the talent on hand has been a key to the Titans success over the years.
“What Coach Washburn does well is he gets the most out of his players. We maximize talent and cater things in what we do based on people’s abilities,” Vanden Bosch said. “A lot of different players have flourished in this system and have played well.
“Guys that fit in this system don’t fit in every system in the league and might not have success in other systems, but we find guys that can do the things that we need to do.”
Jason Jones hopes to be next in line on that list for the Titans.