Coming out of S. Cobb High School in Austell, Georgia, defensive tackle Justin Jones was rated as one best players at his position in the country. By ESPN, he was the No. 38th-ranked defensive end and the 241st player nationally.
Following his senior season, Jones played in a pair of all-star contests, including the Cobb County All-Star Senior Bowl (he had a sack and blocked a kick) and the Offense-Defense Senior Bowl.
Jones didn’t redshirt as a freshman at North Carolina State. Instead, he played in a rotational role in 10 games and recorded 11 tackles. As a sophomore, he earned three starts and finished with 28 total tackles, 6.5 for loss, two sacks, and a forced fumble.
After earning a starting job as junior during the 2016 season, Jones notched a career-high 43 tackles, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, three sacks, a fumble recovery, and blocked a kick. After the season, he earned honorable mention All-ACC honors.
His senior season was more of the same for Jones, who played on a defensive line that consisted of four future NFL draft picks. He and the rest of his linemen teammates were all invited to that year’s Reese’s Senior Bowl to compete against the best senior talent in the country. Jones put on an elite performance, earning himself the all-star showcase’s Practice Player of the Week Award for the defensive linemen.
Jones eventually became the Chargers’ third round draft pick in 2018, being selected 84th-overall. He saw time as a rookie in 15 games but did not record his first career start until this past season. He still finished with 17 tackles and half of a sack.
Garnering 12 starts in 12 games, Jones finished with a career-high 30 tackles, two tackles-for-loss, a pass deflection, and a forced fumble.
Justin Jones has been good at football this year. This is another reason why it is too early to label Tillery a bust, DTs and OL take a year or so to develop. Justin Jones has developed, and I am already excited to see the leap he takes going into Year 3. pic.twitter.com/94CujlCXEO— Jason Balliet II (@Syntari13) December 18, 2019
College: North Carolina State
Years with team: 2
“Justin Jones signed a 4 year, $3,471,621 contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, including a $854,140 signing bonus, $854,140 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $867,905. In 2020, Jones will earn a base salary of $750,000, while carrying a cap hit of $963,535 and a dead cap value of $427,070.” - Spotrac.com
Jones came out of NCST as an explosive three-technique who could wreck an offense’s game plan from start to finish. His pass-rush arsenal wasn’t the most-refined but his motor and power at the point-of-attack was an easy ace to disrupt opposing backfields.
Two offseasons into his career, Jones has re-shaped his body, dropped some weight, and he’s looking awfully good these days. Aesthetics don’t normally win football games, but it’s hard to ignore the obvious work he has put into his body as of late.
As a full-time starter last season - albeit in only 12 games - Jones failed to record a single sack and notched just a pair of tackles-for-loss. That’s not good by any metric when your a defensive lineman. Right now, it doesn’t matter how much praise Jones has been receiving by his coaches and teammates, he’s got to get it done on the field. That means sacks, tackles-for-loss, and just any type of disruption that shows up on game day.
Odds of making the roster/What to expect in 2020?
Justin Jones is almost guaranteed to finish training camp as the team’s starter at the 3-technique next to Linval Joseph. He’ll likely rotate with Jerry Tillery a bit but he’ll definitely receive the lion’s share of the snaps there. Depending on how much Tillery has improved as a pass rusher, we may see Jones lose reps on passing downs if he’s stayed stagnant as a rusher, as well.