Bears linebacker Christian Jones doesn’t quite get the fuss over his ascension to a starting job in Vic Fangio’s defense. Considered to be on the bubble at the start of training camp, Jones is expected to start his fourth consecutive game Sunday against the Saints in New Orleans. That’s notable because the player he replaced, Nick Kwiat-koski, is healthy and ready to go.
“Just coming in every day and working, man,” Jones said. “I don’t even know how to say it. People have been like, ‘Oh, you’ve had this big growth.’ The last couple of years I came in here and I was working my butt off.”
That Jones appears to have wrested the starting position that belonged to team captain Jerrell Freeman is the latest example of the improved depth that is sparking a blossoming defense on a resurgent team — if back-to-back victories can be considered a resurgence.
Cornerback Kyle Fuller stepped in for Prince Amukamara in
Week 1 and won the job. Adrian Amos, who lost his starting job to rookie Eddie Jackson in training camp, has been solid as a replacement for Quintin Demps the last four weeks. When cornerback Marcus Cooper suffered a back injury, Amukamara replaced him and has kept that spot. When Willie Young was put on injured reserve in
Week 5, Pernell McPhee replaced him as the starter and has gotten better with more snaps.
One factor can’t be ignored: With defensive end Akiem Hicks, nose tackle Eddie Goldman and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd playing at a Pro Bowl level, the supporting cast doesn’t have to be perfect. The 6-3, 251-pound Jones, an undrafted free agent from Florida State in 2014, started 20 games in his first three seasons. Whether or not he’s a better player, he’s making a bigger impact this season.
He leads the team in tackles with 40 and has a pass break-up (which nearly was an interception), a forced fumble, a quarterback hit and a tackle for loss. He’s making plays.
“What’s kind of fun about doing this is watching guys mature,” Bears coach John Fox said. “Sometimes it’s as a football player on the field, but whether it’s in the building, becoming not just a player but a pro at how they approach this segment of their life.
“I’ve seen a maturation process [with Jones] — how he studies, how he prepares, how much video he’s studying. So much of it is what you do off the field or time management as anything. I’ve seen a lot of maturation there, and I’m pretty proud of how far he’s come that way.”
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