'He’s the football version of Shaq'
Chris Jones laughs at your double-teams. The size, the athleticism, the brains — there's nothing like him at defensive tackle. Is the Kansas City Chiefs' star about to wreck Super Bowl LVII?
PHOENIX — The most physically imposing athletes in any sport, any era appear utterly lost. On the field. The court. The ice. It’s as if they’re from another planet and should be immediately banned.
All season, Chris Jones has made a mockery of the man trying to block him.
Comparing this 6-foot-6, 310-pounder to any defensive tackle in pro football is an exercise in futility.
In the AFC Championship Game, the Cincinnati Bengals sent a wave of bodies at Jones. It did not matter. And when he was singled up on the Bengals’ final third down of the season? On the edge? He consumed poor Hakeem Adeniji whole. That’s why George Karlaftis does not hesitate. To him, there’s only way to articulate the dominance of Chris Jones ahead of Super Bowl LVII.
“He’s the football version of Shaq,” the rookie Karlaftis says. “If you stand next to the dude, he’s a physical specimen. He’s got the attitude of just being dominant. Bringing it. He’s a joy to be around. He’s a phenomenal human being who truly cares about everybody. He’s just so dominant.”
To clarify, Peak Shaq.
The enormous, yet agile center running up and down the court for the Orlando Magic breaking backboards.
The cruel bully backing down centers in the paint, spinning, dunking and hilariously throwing Chris Dudley into the trash bin.
The quotacious life of every room, who toggles between apex predator and standup comedian. During Jones’ press conferences, it’s often difficult to differentiate between the two.
The Philadelphia Eagles are currently 1.5-point favorites because of their deep talent pool on both lines. Yet, there’s no debating that Kansas City’s Jones is the single-most dominating player on the line of scrimmage and capable of going full Godzilla when Jalen Hurts needs to drop back late in the fourth quarter. In the Chiefs’ 23-20 win over the Bengals, Jones totaled eight pressures. Three resulted in sacks (two by himself) and the five other pressures ended in hits and incompletions.
Quarterbacks are the ones hounded by the most cameras. Images of Mahomes and Hurts are plastered all over downtown Phoenix.
History tells us that a defensive lineman will ruin the Super Bowl party.
Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald ends Cincy’s season on fourth-and-1, lassoing quarterback Joe Burrow.
Tampa Bay’s front has Mahomes zigging and zagging for 497 yards before his pass attempts and sacks in a 31-9 blowout. The field becomes a dizzying maze with no escape. There wasn’t much difference between The Weeknd’s halftime show and the game with Shaquil Barrett in pursuit.
Two plays by the Chiefs’ two best on the D-Line won them the Super Bowl over San Francisco. With 5:26 to go, and his team trailing by three, Jones batted down a pass at the line when George Kittle was wide, wide open. With 1:25 to go, and his team leading, Frank Clark sacks Jimmy Garoppolo on fourth and 10.
Sean McVay’s offense is rendered complete slop in a three-point performance. New England racks up 12 quarterback hits and shuts down Todd Gurley.
Even in a 41-33 thriller the last time Philly was in the Super Bowl — in which the Patriots and Eagles combined for an NFL-record 1,151 yards — Brandon Graham made the play of the game. The defensive end’s sack and fumble with 2:16 remaining slammed the door shut on Tom Brady.
All Chris Jones has done all season long is make these exact plays in these exact moments.
Vlade Divac isn’t even around to flop into a million pieces.
This season feels like a steady build toward a star turn. When everyone recognizes Jones as something more than an All-Pro. Go Long sought the opinions of everyone around the defensive tackle to figure out why: his position coach (Joe Cullen), his day-to-day practice foe (Austin Reiter) and teammates along the defensive line (Karlaftis and Khalen Saunders).
Right now, the Eagles are no doubt devising a master plan for the Chiefs’ own Big Diesel. This plan will include a slew of Pro Bowlers and a center (Jason Kelce) who may wear a gold jacket one day. They’ll try dinging this colossus from every angle with a smart gameplan because Philly’s Jeff Stoutland is as close to a genius as you’ll find in an offensive line coach. But that’s the thing with Shaq-like talents in sports.
There’s also a good chance that nothing you do to stop him will even matter.