COSTA MESA, California – There’s only one person on the planet who can bring down Justin Jones, one of the meanest-looking defensive linemen in the Los Angeles Chargers, a 6 foot-3,300 pound, chunky, bearded man with dreadlocks and a Twitter handle from @ Twenty7savage.
This person bringing him down or picking him up is 2 feet 10 depending on your perspective and likes to wear their hair in a bun with lots of ribbons and often wear a pink tutu. And she will be 1 year old next month.
“I brushed my hair yesterday and then she wanted to brush my hair,” Jones said of his daughter Kamiah. “I’ll get up at 6am and she’ll show up and sit up next to me until I go to work. Then she’ll go straight back to bed. She came at the right time.”
She makes Jones smile, calms him down. Especially when the going gets tough. And things have been tough, especially with Jones, who was in injured reserve with a calf injury until last Sunday. He missed five games and only played in the season opener against Washington before returning for last week’s loss to the New England Patriots.
The Chargers run defense finished bottom of the league in his absence, dropping yards to the Dallas Cowboys in week 2,198, to the Cleveland Browns in week 5,230 and 187 yards to the Baltimore Ravens in week 6.
Jones ‘absence created a devastating void in the Chargers’ line. It was only when he returned against the patriots that they succeeded in re-establishing the semblance of resistance to the barrel. Against the Patriots, they allowed a modest average of 3.9 per carry – a marked improvement over the 5.6 yards per carry they had given up in the five games Jones missed. The Chargers hope to continue that advance on Sunday at the Philadelphia Eagles (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).
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“I thought it was important to get Justin back,” said head coach Brandon Staley.
And it was. Jones gave the entire team a boost as the Chargers surrendered only one point on the ground against New England.
Jones was drafted from the state of NC by the Chargers in the third round in 2018 after being projected as a choice for the fifth or sixth round. But he did so well in the Senior Bowl that the Chargers jumped on him. He weighed 319 when he entered the league but got a fitness kick after his rookie season by quitting beef and pork and starting boxing.
As a result, he’s lost about 20 pounds and is a leaner, meaner defensive end that can move with the best while being strong at running support.
Safety durwin James Jr. said, “Justin Jones is a big part of this team. When I got him back, I felt his energy in the first game of the game.”
Jones is certainly happy to be back on the field after having weathered every defensive meeting since his calf injury in the first week of the season to keep mentally with the team. It helped, he said.
“The first game made me feel like I was back,” said Jones of his experience against the Patriots. “In the first half I got used to the rhythm of things; read my keys … just come back and play real football, the game wins the rhythm with my boys.”
Part of that rhythm was adapting to Staley’s new defense system, which was difficult to manage at home.
“I would watch the games at home and not be able to repeat the call to get the guys in better situations and make more games,” said Jones. “I just had a feeling that at least I could do that for the guys, it kind of hurt me, seeing some guys fighting, knowing that I can’t be out there with them.”
Kamiah also watched herself on TV at home with Jones and her mother Kandace. “She’s watching everyone on TV, looking at my jersey and staring,” said Jones. “It is so sweet.”
Kamiah wants to do whatever her father does, but he has yet to get her into a three-point stance.
“I was nervous at first,” said Jones, who is a self-proclaimed “girl father”. “I’ve seen a lot of fathers fail. Your mother did a really good job.”
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Failing as a father was never an option for Jones, whose own father was in and out of his life.
“I’ve never stopped doing anything I’ve done… being there for your child, that’s what matters to you. They might not care where you take them or what your daily schedule is, ”he said. “They want you and your time.
“Everything is a learning experience.”
Especially off the field.
And in the field?
“We haven’t won the last two games,” said Jones. “I think we can come a long way this season. I really think we have the guys for it, we have the team for it, we have the quarterback and the coaches for it. We have to bring it all together.” and to get our team ready to play on Sunday in order to achieve this victory together. That’s really the plan. “