Jon Jones remembers going to Ravens’ games during his brother’s first couple years in the NFL.
In those days,
“When he first started, we’d be out there watching like, ‘Is he even playing right now?’” Jon joked during his visit to Ravens’ practice Wednesday.
It’s much different watching Arthur now.
He has become the Ravens’ starting defensive tackle and is having the best season of his four-year career. Jones has become one of the team’s most consistent players, a staunch defender in the run game and an emerging pass rusher.
“He’s one of the most improved guys that we have on our football team,” Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said. “From where he’s come to where he is now, he’s just vastly, vastly improved, and we feel good about him every week.”
In his breakout campaign, Jones currently has 28 tackles, four sacks and five tackles for loss. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones has been the third best player on the team this season behind outside linebackers
“He’s turned into a very solid and even excellent defensive lineman in this league, and I think it is because of his work ethic,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s really maximized his physical potential, and he’s one of the best defensive linemen now going. We’re real proud of what he has done.”
Jones picked a good time to have a big season, as he’s currently in the final year of his contract. The 2010 fifth-round pick was given a second-round restricted free agent tender this offseason, and he is set to hit the open market this offseason.
He could work out a new deal with the Ravens, or go the route of players like Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe who earned big-time money with other teams.
Jones was jokingly asked during a press conference Wednesday if his brother Jon, a world champion UFC fighter, was actually in Baltimore to provide some muscle in his contract negotiations with General Manager Ozzie Newsome.
“Is that the reason [you’re here]?” Arthur said to Jon with a big smile. “This is my agent right here.”
The standout season for Jones is also particularly impressive considering the way it began.
At the start of the year, Jones’ had a life-threatening health scare that forced him to miss the final two preseason games and first game of the regular season. The health situation put Jones’ season and career in jeopardy, but he bounced back with a new perspective about the game.
“You count your blessings,” Jones said. “You never know when it’s going to be your last play on the field, so you just give it up every single snap for your team.”
Jones has already overcome much in his career to reach the point where he’s an impact player, and now he likely has a bright future ahead of him. He is expected to get a big payday this offseason, and his brother even hinted at the possibility of Arthur making the transition into a UFC fighter someday. Jon insists that his big brother could be a world champion.
Jones will have options in the coming months, but with seven games left in the regular season and the Ravens fighting for a playoff spot, he is taking it one step at a time.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he said. “I feel like it’s going well, but I want to give it up for my team to get wins. That’s what it’s all about. Any means necessary now – every single game, every single play, I’m just trying to be an impact player and give it up for my team.”