The New England Patriots drafted defensive end Chandler Jones 21st overall in 2012 for his physical tools, among other things.
If Jones could take a mulligan on his rookie season, though, he says he would rely more on the film study and preparation than on his natural gifts.
"My rookie year, I feel like there was a lot of times where I was trying to just get by with my talent," Jones told reporters on Tuesday at Gillette Stadium, "and I feel like at this level of football, everyone's talented, so I feel like you definitely have to study more film.
"So that's my biggest advice to all the rookies now: just get in the film room. You're in the NFL, so you're talented. You're talented enough to play in this level, but you have to have the mentality and the mental strength as well to play up here."
He didn't stop there.
"Just being level-headed and being consistent everyday — every day at camp, every day at practice, every day in the weight room, every day in OTAs," he added. "Being consistent and getting the respect from the players around you and the coaches, so they can get enough confidence to put you out on the field."
Jones has had no problem getting on the field since his rookie season. He played 69.1 percent of the snaps in 2012, and 97.9 percent of the snaps in 2013.
The playing time has been well-earned. He logged 17.5 sacks in 30 games since entering the NFL in 2012, just three spots (1.5 sacks) outside the top 20 in that span. With 11.5 sacks in 2013, Jones finished ninth-best in the league.
He hopes to carry that upward trajectory into the 2014 season, but film study is not the only thing he is doing to improve his game. In hopes of making another step forward in his third year, Jones has been focusing on his lower body strength this offseason "to help with [his] pass-rush and run-stopping ability."
This serves as a follow-up to last offseason, when he focused on his upper body strength.
"Me, personally, I always try to focus on one thing," Jones said of his singular approach to offseason training. "I feel like when you try to focus on too many different things, you're not going anywhere. So last season was my upper body ... but this year, I'm trying to focus on my lower body. I feel like it can definitely help me in the whole sport of football — changing directions, even my bull-rush, or whatever it is. I feel like without your legs, you're not anything, so I've been focusing on my lower body."
Jones played a mix of positions last year. He lined up as a defensive end in four- and three-man lines, and in a two-point stance as an outside linebacker on the line of scrimmage. He occasionally would move inside to rush the passer.
Adding to his lower body strength, Jones says, will help him anchor against the run and execute certain pass-rush moves that require more quickness.
"You're always working to get faster and stronger," he said, "[and] working on your lower body strength, stronger legs, it definitely generates more power and more speed."
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, Jones has 35.5-inch arms to help him keep blockers at bay. Adding to his lower body strength would allow him to get his hands on a defender first, and then either drive him backward into the quarterback's lap or toss him aside to break by him.
Jones' offseason workout program will help his strength, and a deeper rotation at defensive end may help his endurance. Jones and teammate Rob Ninkovich each played over 1,110 snaps in 2013, but the Patriots have called in the cavalry with the signing of Will Smith from the New Orleans Saints and the selection of Concordia defensive end Zach Moore in the sixth round of the draft..
Jones is still likely to see a vast majority of the snaps. He has developed into a key player in the Patriots defense, and if he continues to build on his performances, he'll no longer just be a household name in New England, but he'll also earn national notoriety.