FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Chandler Jones never seems satisfied.
The New England Patriots rookie defensive end made an immediate impact in his first professional game four weeks ago, recording five tackles and a strip-sack that was recovered for a touchdown. Not enough.
The 21st overall pick out of Syracuse jarred another ball loose the following week and has a sack in three of his first four NFL games. Not content.
Jones on Thursday was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for September.
And guess what? There’s still room for improvement.
‘‘I feel personally that it’s not good enough,’’ he said as the Patriots (2-2) continued preparations for the Denver Broncos (2-2). ‘‘Even though they say I'm the rookie of the month for September, we still have a .500 record. That’s just not good enough.’’
Jones has provided a much-needed menacing presence along the New England defensive line — something that has been lacking. Along with his trio of sacks, which leads all rookies, the 22-year-old has collected 17 tackles in helping stabilize New England’s run defense. The Patriots are tied for the seventh at 85.2 yards per game after ranking 17th last season, allowing more than 117 yards a contest.
Perhaps even more impressive, though, is the rate at which he has been on the field, lining up for more than 90 percent of the defensive snaps.
‘‘I have a lot of work to do,’’ Jones said. ‘‘For me personally, I feel like I have a long way to go. I'm still a rookie, it’s a long season ahead of me and we got a lot more games to play. Each week I'm trying to get better. You take it one day at a time and you let those days stack.’’
Sunday’s test likely will be more challenging than anything he’s faced thus far, too.
After chasing down the likes of Jake Locker, Kevin Kolb, Joe Flacco and Ryan Fitzpatrick — not exactly a star-studded cast — Jones now is tasked with wreaking havoc on Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, a certain Hall of Famer who first entered the league when Jones was just 10 years old.
‘‘Definitely been watching him since I was a little kid, but you take this game with the same approach that you would take it from Week 1 to Week 2 to Week 13,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t try to play the name game, who I'm going against. It’s a quarterback out there and it’s my job to get after him.’’
Veteran linebacker Rob Ninkovich isn’t the least bit surprised at Jones’ swift learning curve, or the way he handles himself.
‘‘I think really he came in ahead of many rookies that come into this league,’’ Ninkovich said. ‘‘A lot has to do with what you learn in college and the techniques and stuff that are coached to you in college. Whoever was coaching him obviously gave him some good stuff to where he’s able to come in and make an impact right away.’’
Ninkovich pointed toward Jones’ innate ability to diagnose plays as a primary reason for his early success.
‘‘It takes time to just get comfortable on the field and know when to go, and when to play the run, when to pass rush,’’ he said. ‘‘I say just him just having the awareness of the situations and able to really get after the quarterback and also play the run as well.’’
Despite obvious support from his teammates, who speak highly of him on a regular basis, Jones still believes he has something to prove, especially to the veterans like four-time Pro Bowl standout Vince Wilfork.
‘‘I want those guys to not have to worry about what I'm doing and make sure I have my playbook down,’’ Jones said. ‘‘That’s the biggest thing that I want to do is just show these guys next to me that I can do it and I can step my game up for them.’’
And has he done that yet?
‘‘There’s a quote that goes, ‘You never are doing as good as you think you are and you’re never doing as bad as you think you are,'’’ he said. ‘‘So, if you just stay humble and level-headed throughout the whole process, you should be pretty good.’’
While Jones has been rather tight-lipped about his early accolades, he did reveal one key component to his game.
‘‘I'm having a lot of fun,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s the one thing about football that you can’t take away from. This being my job, but you got to have fun.
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