KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Defensive tackle Chris Jones hasn’t been shy about publicly declaring his lofty goals for the upcoming season. He’s done it since he was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016, so it was no surprise when he recently tweeted about becoming the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2022.
Jones wouldn’t elaborate Wednesday after the Chiefs’ second minicamp practice other than to say he expected to “come out and be the best me.”
“That’s my driving force,” Jones said.
The Chiefs, who fell to 29th in the NFL in sacks last season, would happily settle for the best version of Jones. He had 15.5 sacks in 2018, third in the league.
— Chris Jones (@StoneColdJones) May 27, 2022
Jones has been very good at times since, most notably when he knocked down three passes during the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LIV win over the San Francisco 49ers after the 2019 season. But the numbers haven’t been present for Jones the way the Chiefs hoped three years ago when they added pass-rusher Frank Clark in a trade to pair with Jones.
Jones led the Chiefs in sacks the past three seasons with a total of 25.5, including nine last year. But last season ended when Jones failed to finish on a couple of sack attempts against Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow during a 27-24 overtime loss in the AFC Championship Game.
“I missed some of the biggest plays of the game against Joe Burrow,” Jones said. “I used that as motivation the whole offseason. I feel like if I had made those sacks, the game would have been different. I take accountability for that.”
Clark was excused by the Chiefs for mandatory minicamp, while he awaits the birth of his child. But defensive line coach Joe Cullen, in his first year with the Chiefs, said he was expecting the best versions of Jones and Clark.
“Those were two of my favorite guys when I was at another place when they were coming out [in the draft],” Cullen said. “I expect those guys to have career years and play the best they have in their careers. If they do that, that will elevate the whole team.
“I love the way they play. I love what they’re all about.”
In the first round of this year’s draft, the Chiefs added defensive end George Karlaftis to their pass rush. Karlaftis said he was eager to play with Jones and Clark because it would mean fewer double-team blocks against him. He was blocked frequently by multiple players in college at Purdue.
“When you’re a defensive lineman, you want to get one-on-ones, whether that’s me or whoever,” Karlaftis said. “You want to get guys who are playing next to you that are really good players. Obviously, they’re great players and that just means more success for me and the whole unit.
“I’m not going to say it was frustrating. It was more annoying than anything, just getting doubles all the time. It will be a nice change now that when I’m on the field to maybe not see that attention.”
The Chiefs used Jones some at defensive end last season before moving him back to his more natural position at tackle. They haven’t talked about their plans for Jones this season but Cullen gave a big clue when he said, “When Chris is on his game, I don’t think there’s a better defensive tackle in the NFL. You saw that in the  championship run.”
Jones said he learned a few lessons as an end that will help him.
“I learned the end position is hard as hell,” he said. “There was a learning curve for me. … I think it improved my overall game … being able to know a lot of different positions. I think I can carry that on to next year.”