Chandler Jones has already piqued the interest of Patriot Nation, and the rookie defensive end has also generated quite a bit of buzz around the league.
Many saw how he manhandled Saints Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod in the preseason opener.
So how psyched should Pats fans get about this kid? Is it too early to think he might actually be a star? And does his emergence really cancel out the need for Andre Carter?
Former Patriot Willie McGinest — one of the last true pass-rushing studs the team employed at defensive end — hasn't seen Jones in person at training camp, but the NFL Network analyst watched film of the Pats-Saints game.
His initial impressions of the first-round pick?
“He's real physical. I saw (Bushrod) have to tackle him one time, which means he was winning,” McGinest said. “Bushrod had his hands full. I think the kid's going to be fine. He showed a lot of good things, positive things.”
McGinest also liked seeing that Jones put some weight on. That will better serve him playing defensive end.
“If they go to the 3-4, he's going to have to be able to two-gap and take on the double teams,” McGinest said. “It's not just about pass rushing in that defense. You have to be stout. You have to play the run as well. When he's inside, he's going to have to be able to deal with those tackles and those tight ends, and double teams and blocking schemes as well.”
In terms of advice, naturally, McGinest offered plenty for the Syracuse alum, who Friday made his teammates incredibly happy by catching a towering Zoltan Mesko punt, which earned them the evening off.
“He has a lot of good tools. I'd like to see him use his hands and his length a little more to keep guys off him, because you get tangled up with those guys, they want to wrestle and grab you and keep you in tight,” McGinest said. “But he's a long kid, he has long arms. The only thing I saw from watching him that I would advise is using that length more to create a little more space. Pro Bowl tackles, they want you to run down the middle of them. And you saw a little bit of that. But it'll come with reps and learning.”
Jones has looked good in practice, on Thursday beating Nate Solder around the edge to stuff running back Brandon Bolden in the backfield. He later blew up consecutive passing plays in 11-on-11 drills that led to sacks of Tom Brady.
McGinest's fellow NFL Network analyst Solomon Wilcots was equally impressed.
“From the tape I saw on Chandler Jones, he is just as good as advertised,” Wilcots said during a phone conversation last week. “In one series, he dominated the Saints. He made the plays, first down, second down, third down. And Jermon Bushrod was holding him on two of the three plays. Chandler Jones destroyed him.”
OK. We've established some early returns on the kid, but what might they mean with respect to a possible return for Carter, who had surgery to repair a torn quad muscle in January and who had yet to sign with another team as of Friday?
“If (Carter)'s 100 percent ready to go, and he can play, and he can give you that flexibility as another pass-rushing guy, he's going to help the team,” McGinest said. “You know Bill (Belichick's) all about what's good for the team. And if you can come in and help the team, then that's what you do.
“But I don't know what type of shape he's in, or where he's at (post-surgery). I just think it all depends on what Andre Carter you're getting, what he has left, and how he feels.”