San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh stated in his weekly press conference that everyone in the defensive line room is a starter. There are two rookie defensive lineman who made the 53 man roster. One is first round draft pick Solomon Thomas, the other is sixth round draft pick, nose tackle D.J. Jones. According to DL coach Jeff Zgonina, there will definitely be a rotation, Saleh indicates it will include both of those players:
[L]ike we’ve preached the entire offseason, as long as we can stay healthy everyone on that D-Line is a starter. Ideally everyone will be splitting reps. When it comes to the D-Line, they work together, all of them together to, one, to keep themselves fresh, and two, keep themselves at a dominant level of performance.
The defensive line is arguably one of the deepest position groups for the 49ers and Jones recognizes that. He has been like a sponge soaking up the knowledge from his teammates who he says “all can play this game.” He has learned pass rushing techniques from veteran Elvis Dumervil and he tries to emulate Earl Mitchell. While Jones was a stand out individual drills during training camp, the lineman knows there’s still a lot for him to learn.
Mitchell has been a huge influence on the young lineman not only on the field but off of it as well. “I’ve pretty much learned everything I’ve been able to do up to this point learning from him. It’s a different technique that we play. I’ve been in his head all along just learning from him.” Most importantly, he’s helped him stay focused with all the distractions that come with being an NFL player.
Jones attended East Mississippi Community College before transferring to Ole Miss. EMCC is one of the top rated JUCO programs in the country and is also known as Last Chance U featured in the Netflix documentary. There is nothing near it for miles Jones explains, just books and ball. It’s enrollees generally have had issues academically and he gives credit to the school for helping him develop his focus.
Jones also expressed deep respect for Zgonina, his position coach, who he says is high energy all day, every day. “He tells it how it is” and that has helped Jones improve even more. He appreciates the honesty and adds that he is excited and blessed getting a chance to be a part of this organization.