The San Francisco 49ers run defense was a mess last season, setting records for yards allowed. The team has been working to rebuild the line the past two years, drafting Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. They drafted Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas in the first round this year, and then added Ole Miss defensive tackle D.J. Jones in the sixth round.
Thomas is a guy who can play all around the line, but will probably get some end work in the base and interior work in sub-packages. Jones on the other hand is a guy who is built to man the middle of the defense. He measures in at 6’1, 319 pounds and is all defensive tackle. Jones and GM John Lynch both mentioned after the fact that he can play three-technique or nose tackle.
The 49ers brought in Earl Mitchell in free agency, and still have Quinton Dial under contract. Jones will be competing with them for an opportunity, along with Ronald Blair and Chris Jones. The 49ers are running a 4-3 under type of defense, but they will be mixing and matching a variety of formations and packages. A sixth round pick isn’t guaranteed anything, but amidst what will continue to be a significant roster overhaul, he could work his way into a bit of a role.
Here’s what Jones had to say to the media during his post-draft conference call.
“Thank you. Thank you so much.”
Can you tell us what kind of contact you had with the 49ers before the draft?
“I think I had a couple calls trying to verify my number. I didn’t have any major contact with them.”
What’s your understanding of how you’ll fit in on their defensive line? What position?
“I can play either the three, the nose, in the 4-3 I’m real versatile. So, either position I’ll be available.”
You started every game last year at nose tackle. Is that where you’re most comfortable?
What qualities do you bring to that position?
“My lower center of gravity. My ability to jump off the football. Being able to use my power and finesse to get to the quarterback.”
Did you think that you might be going higher in the draft or how do you feel about just going where you went?
“I’m just blessed to be drafted, to be on a team, especially an organization like the 49ers. I’m just stoked to tell you the truth.”
When the 49ers make every draft pick, they kind of figure out what the guy does and how his skills can be utilized. How do you think your skills along the defensive line can be utilized by an NFL team?
“Just me being able to play in the interior, three technique, nose. I’m very coachable. I take coaching from anyone that wants to teach me.”
What does it say as far as the level of competition you guys played in your conference? Do you feel like that really makes you more NFL ready?
“Oh, yes, sir. Having the opportunity to play a lot of guys that went high in this draft week in and week out, going against those guys and competing at a high level, yes sir, I do think it gets me ready for the NFL.”