A Look At The Lions’ Free Agency Signing of Former Chicago Bear Christian Jones
Linebacker, undrafted out of Florida State
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 244lbs
NFL Experience: Four seasons with the Chicago Bears
Career Stats: 63 games played (31 started), 241 tackles, 4 sacks, 8 passes defended, 1 forced fumble
Christian Jones has played just about every linebacker position with the Bears, from the strong or weak side to the inside, or the outside defending the edge in 3-4 looks.
This play is an example of Jones’ versatility. Here, Chicago was in a base 3-4 look, with three defensive linemen and four linebackers. The outside linebackers are lined up on the edge, and Christian Jones is the one at the top of the line. On this play, he did a good job of getting through the traffic of several players and made a good tackle on Lions running back Ameer Abdullah for no gain.
Now, here is Jones from a few years earlier playing strongside linebacker. He is in coverage against running back Ameer Abdullah on this play and did an excellent job of blanketing him. Stafford still tried to force the ball into coverage, and Jones did a great job of undercutting Abdullah’s route and deflecting the pass.
Size and Physicality
Jones is bigger than the average off the ball linebacker, and it shows in his play. He takes advantage of his size by using it to be a very physical linebacker, shrugging off blockers, making big hits, covering running backs or tight ends in the passing game and generally being a good tackler.
Christian Jones really shows off that physicality on this play, also against the Lions. Chicago was down in the fourth quarter, and the Lions had the ball, facing a third and long. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was under immense pressure and just tried to dump the ball off to running back Theo Riddick. Jones had good coverage on Riddick, and delivered a huge hit, helping to pop the ball up in the air, resulting in a big interception.
Lack of Speed and Instincts
Although Jones has terrific size and knows how to use it, it comes at the cost of speed. At the NFL Combine in 2014, Jones ran just a 4.74 second 40-yard dash. While this can be overcome at the linebacker position, it is still less than ideal.
Christian Jones also occasionally shows bad instincts on the football field. He has a bad habit of occasionally taking the wrong angles on tackles, attacking the wrong offensive line gaps, or has lapses in pass coverage.
Here is one more play, also against the Lions. Jones is lined up as the weakside linebacker on this play, the off the ball linebacker on the left side of the field. Jones had a shot to tackle Ameer Abdullah for no gain on this play, but instead, he attacked the wrong gap and ran right into a blocker. A play that should have been no gain turned into five yards because of it.
Expectations For 2018
Going into training camp, the Lions will have an open competition for the starting strong and weakside linebacker roles. The only linebacker position that is locked in is Jarrad Davis at middle linebacker.
Jones’ competition for playing time will mostly be against Devon Kennard, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and Nick Bellore. The Lions starting three linebackers will likely be Davis, Kennard, and Jones, but any combination of the listed players could possibly be effective depending on situation.
Christian Jones’ versatility likely means he will see the field a lot in a variety of roles. However, as of right now, he seems like the most likely candidate on the Lions roster to take over the Tahir Whitehead role of weakside linebacker.