While the Indianapolis Colts were relatively quiet in free agency, one notable offseason addition could be the return of defensive lineman Art Jones, who missed all of last season with a season-ending ankle injury suffered in preseason.
Since signing a lucrative 5-year, $33 million contract with the Colts in the 2014 offseason, Jones has been limited to just 9 games over the past two seasons–missing 23 games with ankle injuries.
However, the 29 year old defensive lineman was an elite run stuffer as a member of the Baltimore Ravens and a key cog to their Super Bowl XLVII Championship run prior to joining the Colts.
It’s been frustrating for Jones and the team, as both sides know what he’s fully capable of when he’s healthy and playing well on the field:
“Frustrating,” said head coach Chuck Pagano at OTA’s Tuesday. “For him and for all of us. I don’t think anyone needs to mention a word. I think there’s enough out there, and he understands that he’s missed some time. Injuries happen and all of that stuff, and it’s not something that any of us anticipated.”
“He’s got all the talent in the world, and we know that. He’s got to get healthy. He’s got to get back on the field and be the player that he can be. He knows that he can be, and we know that he can be.”
At 6’3″, 320 pounds, Jones has immense size and strength, but is blessed with surprisingly quick feet, which allows him to be an impact player against both the run and passing game:
“On 1st and 2nd down base defense, he can be as disruptive 3-technique as there is in the league,” added Pagano. “As much sub-defense as you’re playing on 1st and 2nd down now versus all the 3-wide groupings that you’re getting, he gives you an inside, 2-technique to 3-technique. Takes care of the run game as well as gives you some inside push as far as the pass rush goes.”
“So again, he’s just got to get back healthy and get back out there and get his legs back underneath him and his confidence back and start playing.”
In that sense, Jones appears to be one of the wildcards for the Colts defensive line. If healthy, he has the physical tools to be a definite difference-maker along their defensive line.
However, his health remains a major question mark.
While Pagano and the team doctors are hopeful that Jones will be available by training camp, Jones insists that he’ll be ready to go when the time comes:
“I’ve been through a lot of adversity this offseason,” said Jones Tuesday at OTA’s. “When the time is ready to go, I’ll be ready to go when the time comes.”
Jones has noted that the adversity has tested him, but that he’s gotten by “with a little from his friends”:
“It’s definitely tested me,” added Jones. “It definitely has, but I have a great support system with Robert Mathis, Trent Cole, and some of the veterans that have been through it before. Those guys have been awesome.”
Still, he’s working hard in his rehabilitation and is excited for this upcoming season:
“So I’m sticking to the plan,” concluded Jones. “My blinders are on. I’m working hard, and I can’t wait to go.”