When the Indianapolis Colts signed former Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones to a 5-year, $33MM contract, this is what the team initially had in mind. After being hampered by a severe ankle injury suffered in Week 2 for much of the regular season, Jones finally looks healthy just in time for this year’s playoffs. He had missed 7 regular season games because of his injured ankle, but now looks like the run stuffing presence the team had envisioned, when they originally signed him to such a lucrative free agent contract this past offseason.
Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson (22) is tackled by Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis (21) and defensive end Arthur Jones (97) and inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (52) during the fourth quarter in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The 5th-year pro is a big bodied defensive lineman at 6’3″, 337 pounds, but has shown remarkably quick feet during his NFL career. In recent weeks, he has helped slow down the red hot Jeremy Hill, who rushed for just 47 total rushing yards on 13 carries (3.6 ypc), in Cincinnati’s Wildcard loss to the Colts. According to ProFootballFocus (subscription), Jones’ +2.4 grade in run defense was a big reason why.
Rewind to last week, and Jones was once again a factor in helping to slow down the Denver Broncos C.J. Anderson to 80 total rush yards on 18 carries (4.4 ypc) in the Colts’ Divisional round win. While he only received a -0.5 grade from ProFootballFocus in run defense, it appeared from the eyeball test that he was clearly a force inside.
It’s worth noting that Jones did not play in the Colts’ Week 11 regular season loss to the New England Patriots. A game where the Colts run defense inexplicably surrendered 201 rushing yards on 37 carries (5.4 ypc) and 4 touchdowns to Patriots running back Jonas Gray.
However, it gets worse.
Jan 11, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) celebrates with quarterback Tom Brady (12) after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against the Indianapolis Colts during the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
In the Colts’ Divisional round playoff loss to the New England Patriots last year, which ended their season, the run defense allowed 166 rushing yards on 24 carries (6.9 ypc) and 4 touchdowns to LeGarrette Blount. Of course, Blount was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this season and has since found himself back on the Patriots roster, having bypassed Gray on the team’s depth chart.
In their last two games combined against the Patriots, the Colts defense has allowed 367 rushing yards on 61 carries (6.0 ypc) and 8 touchdowns. Pass me a bottle, Mr. Jones.
According to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, he expects Jones to have an immediate impact:
"“Defensively, I think getting (Arthur) Jones back has definitely helped them,” Belichick said. “They’re playing just good team defense.”"
While Jones can’t reasonably be expected to become a one-man wrecking crew against the Patriots’ running game, his presence certainly figures to help inside. However, it’s still going to take a team effort for the Colts to finally slow down the Patriots rushing attack.
Having Jones back healthy really looks like it will significantly improve the defense’s chances though. Per ProFootballFocus, in 2013 (a season in which Jones was fully healthy), his run defense grade was +4.2 or 12th best overall in the NFL as a 3-4 defensive end in Baltimore. For a run defense against the Patriots that could certainly use a shot in the arm, maybe Jones will serve as Popeye’s spinach.
Mr. Jones and D, they’re gonna be big stars…
Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri (4) celebrates with defensive end Arthur Jones (97) after making a field goal during the fourth quarter in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports