LAKE FOREST – Defensive tackle Justin Jones believes his position is the “anchor” for the Bears’ defense.
He takes pride in that.
“I wake up every day thinking about that,” Jones said this week after an OTA practice at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.
In head coach Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 defensive scheme, Jones will play the “3-technique,” or the “3-tech” as they often call it. At 6-foot-3, 309 pounds, he’s a lighter, quicker defensive linemen who can shoot gaps and disrupt offenses up the middle with a combination of speed and power.
The 3-technique usually lines up on the outside shoulder of a guard, with an edge rusher out wide. This alignment typically makes it harder for the offensive line to double team those two defenders on that side of the formation.
“The 3-technique is the penetrator,” Jones said. “He’s the anchor of the defense. You have to trust the 3-technique that he’s going to work.”
The Rams’ Aaron Donald is the most well-known 3-technique in football – and now the highest paid nonquarterback in league history. In March, the Bears originally agreed to a three-year, $40.5 million deal that would’ve made former Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi their 3-technique. That deal fell through when Ogunjobi failed his physical. He remains a free agent.
General manager Ryan Poles had to pivot quickly. The 25-year-old Jones quickly became their best available option. A four-year veteran who started 35 games for the Los Angeles Chargers, Jones fit what the Bears were looking for. He signed a two-year, $12 million contract the same day that the team announced the Ogunjobi deal fell through.
There’s little risk in the deal for the Bears. If Jones proves to be a capable 3-technique, then they’ll have signed him at a bargain price. If he can’t get the job done, they can still afford to bring someone else in next year.
“As for the scheme, it’s just that penetrating 3-technique, get off the ball and really just effort,” Jones said. “That’s kind of the staple of my game, I feel like. Really just flying around, making tackles and making plays and being disruptive is kind of my game. I feel like I fit in. I feel like I’m at home in this scheme.”
Jones will line up inside with Robert Quinn and Al-Quadin Muhammad lining up on the edges. Angelo Blackson or Khyiris Tonga likely will line up at the other defensive tackle spot.
The Chargers under head coach Brandon Staley, who formerly was a Bears assistant under Vic Fangio, run a 3-4 scheme. Although Eberflus was bringing Jones into a different scheme, he believed the film showed a player with the right tools for the role.
“They played a lot of what I call under front, so they set their 3-technique away from the tight end, so he’s been playing some 3-technique,” Eberflus said. “So that, to me, that’s why we really recruited him and brought him here. We saw visual evidence on tape that he could do the spot.”
It’s hard to see much of that visual evidence during OTAs, when there’s no tackling. But fans will see it soon enough once training camp begins next month.