How on Earth will the New England Patriots cover the bevy of weapons in the Atlanta Falcons' offensive arsenal?
Defensive end Chandler Jones may be the answer -- no, not in coverage, but in pressuring quarterback Matt Ryan off the edge.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ryan has been under pressure on 44.8 percent of his drop-backs, which is the third-highest average in the NFL through three games.
Despite the constant pressure in his face, Ryan has managed to compile the fourth-highest completion percentage in the NFL, hitting 68.1 percent of his throws. When Ryan is under pressure, though, he is completing just 51 percent of his throws.
It's been open season on Holmes, who has allowed 20 combined pressures (15 hurries, four hits, one sack) in three games. He ranks 61st out of 62 offensive tackles in Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking efficiency this season.
Jones, on the other hand, ranks 10th among 4-3 defensive ends in pass-rushing productivity, with 10 hurries, two hits and four total sacks (half-sacks counting as full sacks).
Two things Jones does exceptionally well: winning leverage, and using his long arms to keep blockers away from his frame.
Jones did both of those things on 2nd-and-8 in the third quarter against the Buccaneers.
He added around 10 pounds of muscle this offseason, and has translated it into functional strength when bull-rushing an offensive tackle. Here, he got inside left tackle Donald Penn's pads, quickly jolted him back and to the side, and because of his long arms, Penn was hardly able to even get a jam on Jones.
Instead, he was left to helplessly watch as Jones wrapped around him and joined in the sack party with defensive tackle Tommy Kelly.
Those traits could come in handy against Holmes, who has already been exposed on the bull-rush this season.
Holmes started out the season as the right tackle, but an injury to left tackle Sam Baker in Week 2 forced him to slide to the left side. While still at right tackle, though, he squared off against Rams left defensive end Chris Long, who comes with a similar skill set to Jones'.
Long started out in a two-point stance and rushed upfield slightly off the snap, then cut straight into Holmes' body.
Just as Jones did to Penn, Long quickly gained leverage on Holmes and jacked him straight into Matt Ryan's lap.
The former Boston College quarterback scrambled away from the oncoming pressure, but was taken down by the backside rush from defensive end Robert Quinn.
Another trademark move of Jones' is the upfield rush with an inside counter move. By charging hard upfield, it forces the offensive tackle to commit to blocking in one direction. At that point, most 300-plus-pound offensive tackles aren't quick enough on their feet to react quickly enough to stop an inside move.
Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon beat Holmes with a similar move in Week 3, Holmes' first as a left tackle.
Vernon was able to get through the B-gap between the left tackle and left guard, getting his hands in Ryan's face as he fired a pass for the end zone.
Before facing the Falcons, Vernon had logged just six total pressures (four hurries, one hit, one sack) but he logged five pressures (all hurries) against the Falcons. If a struggling defensive end did that kind of damage, imagine what Jones could do to him.
Jones has done it against some of the best, including Broncos All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady last year in Week 5. On this play, Jones lined up in a two-point stance with the Patriots in a nickel defense to match the three-receiver set the Broncos were in.
The move was almost exactly the same as Vernon's, except Jones didn't even need to put a hand on Clady to get past him. It was just a quick hop-step to the inside and then a hard charge right at Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who was able to get the pass off in the face of the heavy pressure.
Will Jones win his battle against Holmes every time? Probably not, but he may not even face Holmes on every snap. The Patriots have moved Jones around a bit to start the season, putting him at various spots on the line as anything from a 5-technique (outside shade on the offensive tackle) to a 1-technique (inside shade on the guard).
Life is a track meet in a dome, though, and that may favor a hard-charging defensive end over an offensive tackle on his heels. While Jones may have the edge over Holmes, the Patriots need him to get to the quarterback in a hurry.
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