The Chandler Jones Effect
All week we’ve heard about the explosive West Virginia offense.and rightfully so. They have the 4th best passing attack in the country, and Geno Smith has been playing lights out. That said, the return of Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones may be the answer Doug Marrone has undoubtedly been looking for these past two weeks.
Coming into the season, Chandler Jones was considered the Orange’s best defensive player, and more specifically, their bast pass rusher. He even boldly predicted a 30 sack season at Big East media day. While that dream was derailed partially by injuries (and partially by 30 sacks being an unprecedented goal), the importance of Jones to this defense is clear. Without him, they’ve struggled to get a consistent pass rush. Remember, out of the 13 sacks this team has, 8 are from the linebackers. That’s not enough from the front four. However, Chandler hasn’t played since the Wake Forest game.
Remember, Chandler had 8 tackles (6 solo, 2 ast), and 2 sacks last year as part of a defensive effort that held the Mountaineers to 14 points, and shut them out for the final three quarters. Chandler gave the WVU offensive line and quarterback Geno Smith fits all day. His size, length, and speed were too much as is evidenced by his two sacks. His constant pressure also helped lead to three Geno Smith INTs. Ultimately, that effort propelled Syracuse to victory.
Now fast forward to this year. The Mountaineers are once again 5-1, and in the top 20. Syracuse is once again 4-2 with lots of questions. There is doubt from both the national and local media of the Orange having any ability to stop this potent WVU attack. That’s where Chandler Jones comes in. He’s the X-factor for this defense. We’ve seen the type of effort this team can give defensively with constant pressure on the opposing QB (see Rutgers). We’ve also seen what can happen without that pressure. Since Chandler hasn’t played since week 1, we know he has pent up energy that he will look to unleash on Geno Smith. His long arms, burst off the line, and strength will be a handful for a vulnerable West Virginia offensive line. A consistent pass rush makes Smith rush passes and panic in the pocket. It makes the defensive backs not have to cover some very talented and fast receivers as long. It presents opportunities for turnovers which can swing momentum in a major way, and give the offense a short field.
With that said, it’s clear Chandler is the key to a Syracuse victory tomorrow on ESPN with the whole country watching. Syracuse fans should be happy about that, especially given his history against WVU. Personally, there’s no one else I’d trust more in such a huge game.