Camp Questions: Can Justin Jones Take the Next Step?

Training camp is right around the corner, and as always, there are several key storylines to keep an eye on at this point in the offseason.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll highlight some of the more noteworthy ones set to play out at Jack Hammett Sports Complex as well as during the preseason.

Can Justin Jones Take the Next Step?

Two of the Chargers' longest tenured defensive tackles are no longer on the team as Corey Liuget and Darius Philon departed this offseason.

Enter Justin Jones.

It’s only natural for players to receive added responsibility in year two, and that is absolutely the case for last year’s third-round pick.  And, as Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley noted early in the offseason program, the Bolts are relying on him to step up.

Jones is ready to answer the bell.

"I feel like I'm able to make that next step,” he said. “I feel I am going to make that next step. I put in a lot of work this offseason. I put in a lot of extra work with the guys after workouts and everything. Just getting my mind right, studying film. Taking the areas that I needed to improve on, just making those things better and just helping the guys out in my room just like they're helping me."

The 6-3, 309-pound 22-year-old flashed as a rookie, totaling 26 tackles and a half-sack in 15 games.  Most importantly, his play steadily increased as the year went on, resulting in him starting both postseason contests in which he logged six tackles and one sack. 

Now, Jones wants that performance to merely be a springboard for future success, which is why he went above and beyond in order this offseason to reward the Chargers for what surely will be increased responsibility in 2019.

“I changed my diet,” he began. “I eat a lot more vegetables. I stopped eating red meat. I watch a little more film. I started going to the sauna because I heard that's pretty good for you. This offseason, I tried a bunch of different things. Instead of training in football, I went to do boxing. I went and did field work, but I did a little bit of swimming. I rode a bike — I don't ride bikes, but I rode a bike this time. Stuff like that, just keeping things different. Still getting the workout in, but having fun while you're doing it with something that you normally wouldn't do.”

Bradley was encouraged by how he’s responded.

"A lot of guys make a big step their second year,” Bradley said. “They understand the defense and the techniques that are involved. They all want to take that next step to understand formation tendencies and things like that. We applaud that as a coaching staff, but not at the expense of our fundamentals. Those are key. That's been a big emphasis thus far with our players. I know that, him coming back into a familiar environment for a second year and some of the offseason things that he did — I think he kind of pared down his training to what he felt like would help him after being a year in the system. He looks really good coming back. We're excited just to see how far he's developed."

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