Chandler Jones

There is more than one reason why the New England Patriots weren’t able to reach the Super Bowl last season, but the performance of Chandler Jones wasn’t one of them. The Pats expect the 24-year old defensive end to take another step forward this season.

In his second season with the Patriots since being drafted by them out of Syracuse in the first round of the 2012 draft, he finished with 11.5 sacks in 16 games, playing on over 90% of the snaps. The Patriots are hoping that their improved secondary with someone like Darrelle Revis and their additions to the defensive line in the form of Will Smith and others will give Jones a bit more opportunities to rest, which means looking better on the snaps he does play.

Nick Underhill of MassLive.com, following things in Foxborough closely enough, thinks that there’s a bit season on the horizon for Jones, maybe even a Pro Bowl as well, as the lighter load and a bit more time to breathe between plays should make him a much more dangerous player and pass rusher.

Jones recorded six sacks as a rookie and 11.5 last season. If the Patriot can find a way to lower his snap total – he played more than 90 percent of the defensive snaps last season – Jones could break out this season and become the impact pass rusher the team has lacked in recent seasons. New England brought in Will Smith to help with that task, and have some other internal options that could figure into lessening Jones’ load next season. With a little less on his plate and a secondary that should afford him more time to get after the quarterback, Jones could be in for a big season.

This is going to be another season in which the Tom Brady – Bill Belichick duo carries them towards another postseason, and hopefully more than just a playoff appearance. Playing in the AFC East, it’s only natural to expect at least that. But for 2014 to be memorable and to give them a better chance of smiling after the last game, it needs to be about more than just the HC-QB connection, including guys like Jones stepping up.

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