FOXBOROUGH — As the Patriots concluded their second stretch of practices on Friday before an off day, I had one unshakable thought: Chandler Jones is a starter, and I don’t really foresee that changing.
While other players (Rob Ninkovich, Jermaine Cunningham and Trevor Scott) come and go at left defensive end, Jones has been consistently on the right side the second week of camp to the point that he’s now running with the first and second teams on that side.
To me, that means they are trying to cram in as much as possible so Jones will be ready for the season.
Entering training camp, the expectations for Jones — even within the Patriots — were for him to start as a situational player and possibly evolve from there.
But two things happened: Jones entered camp much stronger than most anticipated, and his pass-rush moves are much more advanced that your typical early-entry, first-round pick.
Put those things together, and you have a player capable of playing every down. I think his ability to hold the point of attack has even surprised the Patriots.
Jones has absolutely shown that potential and his play has dictated that he get, not only a shot at the starting job, but the job for now.
That being said, if Andre Carter returns, I don’t know how that changes things. Perhaps Jones slides back to a situational role. That would have to play out and would be contingent on Carter’s health.
But you can only deal with the players you have, and right now Jones is the clear leader at the end/linebacker hybrid Elephant position on the right side of the Patriots’ defense.