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September 1, 2013

Good or great? Jones holds key to Patriots season

Disruptive Jones holds key to Patriots season, future

FOXBORO — “Any play that I have my hand in the ground, ready to charge into that backfield, in my eyes, is a good one.”

From Chandler Jones’ lips to Matt Patricia’s ears. ... Hopefully, for New England Patriots fans.

Forget Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Rob Gronkowski or anyone else in this home locker-room. The 2013 Pats season hinges squarely on this football team’s ability to pressure the opposing quarterback.

Not against the headless Bills, inept Mark Sanchez and the Jets or even the Miami flash, Ryan Tannehill. The Rob Ninkoviches of the world have those misfits covered.

To climb to the pinnacle in this NFL, you need an impact defender, a game-changer against the best.

And in his second year, Syracuse’s Jones has to be that guy. Patricia, the Patriots defensive coordinator, has to turn him loose, and Jones has to inflict pain. A freakish athlete at 6-foot-5, 247 pounds, Jones offers the Patriots more than any other player on the team.

Yes, more than Brady.

“He definitely understands how to use his physical attributes but like any player, he’s in his second year. There will be things that he can learn and improve on and refine and develop as we go forward,” said Bill Belichick. “That’s part of the natural progression of any player, is to take advantage of his skills. As you study more, learn more, different techniques, train, you’re able to utilize your strengths more effectively in time than you were before you did all that. I think he’s in that process.”

In an NFL, where defensive backs are saddled with more rules and restrictions than a 16-year-old driver, defenses have one chance.

Get to the quarterback and put him on his back.

If past seasons, the preseason and recent individual performances are the measuring stick, Jones is all the Patriots have. And if the 2012 season was any indication, the Pats’ money rides on a good one. Well, at least the first half of the 2012 season anyway.

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