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Chandler Jones ready to play a bigger role in Patriots' defense

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New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones is ready to make another big step this upcoming season. The 24-year-old Jones recorded 11.5 sacks last season, which was the fourth-most in team history. Most importantly the former first-round pick has become a force on the defensive line. As WEEI reports on Wednesday, Jones figures to play a more sizable role in the Patriots’ defensive game plan this season.

With older veterans like Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Will Smith and Rob Ninkovich, it is not up to Jones to be a vocal leader yet, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a guide for the younger players which include this first-round pick Dominique Easley. During a break from offseason workouts at Gillette Stadium, Jones addressed the media. He said, “I always try to lead – especially in drills. I try to lead from example. I’m not a huge vocal leader. That’s what the older guys are for, but I always try to do my best so the guys next to me or the guy behind me will say, ‘Hey, he’s going 100 percent so let me go too.”

The 6-foot-5, 265-pound product out of Syracuse has established himself as a pass-rusher as he enters his third NFL season. Although he is focused on making another big leap in his own career, Jones till took time to give advice to Easley, a player he says he is excited about.

“He looks like a great player. I’ve been watching his highlights and I’ve been talking to him. I’m excited,” Jones said. “It is early. The game is a lot different playing in the NCAA than the NFL. But I’ve definitely watched highlights and I am very impressed with his game. Very impressed.”

Chandler Jones also shared his focus in developing his lower-body strength as part of his progression as a player. As last year his focus was on his upper-body, strengthening his legs is something he feels will help him at the game of football. He said, “Without your legs, you’re not anything … Stronger legs definitely generates more power and more speed.”

Depth will certainly help in Jones’ progression. Towards the end of last season he seemed to tire out a bit due to the lack of depth on the defensive line. The Patriots addressed that void by drafting Easley and signing veteran Will Smith. The team is also hopeful one of their other young players will emerge and become a key contributor. Chandler Jones is certainly a player they can look to as an example of the dedication it takes to make it in the NFL and be a factor.