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Why Justin Jones is Loaded with Pro Bowl Potential

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Brandon Mebane has seen it all over 12 seasons in the NFL.

A Super Bowl champion with the Seattle Seahawks prior to his time with the Bolts, he's been around some of the top talent the game has to offer on both sides of the ball.

So, when Mebane praises someone the way he lauded third-round pick Justin Jones, your ears definitely perk up.

"Justin Jones is a great player," he declared. "He's one of those guys that I've seen in my 12 years (where) I think he's going to have a great future ahead of him. I think, eventually, he's going to be a Pro Bowler. He's way ahead of the curve when it comes to football IQ and his technique. The best thing I like about him is he can only keep climbing (and) keep going up. (We have) a great defensive line coach in Giff (Smith). Having all of those things line up, the sky is the limit for him."

The Bolts were thrilled to land Jones with the 84th overall selection of this year's draft. The 6-3, 309-pound defensive tackle who was part of a star-studded defensive line at N.C. State, totaled 34 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 13 starts last year.

"He's big, strong, physical; plays extremely hard, but also has some athletic ability and flexibility as a pass rusher," General Manager Tom Telesco said seconds after selecting him in April. "He has some range as a run defender… The biggest thing is he is a big guy who plays really hard. He doesn't take plays off. He's hustling all the time. That's what you need at this level. That's how we play on our defensive front. We need guys who, really, snap after snap, give it one-hundred percent."  

Jones has been everything Telesco described him to be and then some since joining the Bolts, which is why Mebane offered such effusive praise.

Still, it's important to note that Jones is still just a rookie who hasn't even appeared in a preseason game yet let alone regular season action. The defensive tackle still has a lot to learn, but it's his mindset as much as his physical talent that's impressing the Bolts.

All it takes is one conversation with Jones to realize how committed he is to himself, but more importantly, the team.

Hearing Mebane's praise means the world to Jones, as he's made a concerted effort to emulate him whenever possible.

To that end, he decided to train alongside the veteran between minicamp and training camp.

"Goddamn, it really does mean a lot," he said. "It's a testament to how hard we're working in the offseason, how hard we worked together as a group and a D-line in the room, in the meeting room to on the field individually. He was telling me the ins and outs of taking care of your body, make sure you're in the playbook and more. How really important it is to take care of your body and go about it the best you can."

Mebane isn't the only veteran taking a keen interest in the rookie as the vets are giving him countless tips throughout the day.

"Just earlier Melvin (Ingram) today came back to me and said, 'You better stay low when you're going to tackle the quarterback, because it's little things like that that can cause you to get a sack instead of a pressure.' It's little things that can help you take the game to the next level."

With all the praise coming his way, it's only natural to ask Jones what he would consider a successful rookie season.

His answer is what coaches dream to hear.

"To be honest, I just really want to win," he said. "So, whether that's on the field or not, me doing anything, whatever I can do, I just want to win because at the end of the day that's what it's about. That's the biggest thing."

Jones also understands that success as an individual doesn't necessarily mean filling the scoresheet.

It's about doing the little things to make the entire team succeed, which is a philosophy being hammered home by Mebane, Ingram, Joey Bosa and the rest of defensive linemen.

"When I first came in here, I was just doing my own thing, trying to make as many me plays as I can to get on the field," he explained. "But when I watched the film, and I watched how the D-line plays, it's not about me. It's about us. There's some plays where Joey has to take one for the team and go smack a guard to let (Darius) Philon come to my side and get a sack. And there's some plays where Corey (Liuget) has to come and pin the tackle for Joey to come around and Melvin to come around and make a play. So it's a team effort to win a game. That's one of the biggest things I've seen that's helped me grow as a player."

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