The 49ers’ front seven earned plenty of accolades this past Sunday in San Francisco’s 20-7 victory over the Rams, with Dee Ford, Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas getting the most attention.
Ford had 1½ sacks, Armstead provided consistent pressure and Thomas had his first sack of the season.
But when it came to shutting down the Rams’ running attack – after Los Angeles’ successful first drive of the game – D.J. Jones may have been the key.
Jones was in on four tackles and stuffed consecutive running plays by the Rams on third and fourth downs late in the second quarter from the San Francisco 1-yard line with the game tied 7-7.
When veteran cornerback Richard Sherman addressed the media after the game, he made sure to let reporters know Jones’ impact.
“D.J. Jones! D.J. Jones! D.J. Jones!,” said Sherman, according to Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Guy doesn’t get enough credit. We don’t stop all those running games without him. He takes on double teams constantly, he’s incredibly solid. He doesn’t get enough respect, enough love.”
Jones, a 6-foot, 321-pounder who lines up opposite the center or a guard in base or goal-line defenses, was drafted in the sixth round out of Mississippi by the 49ers in 2017, appearing in nine games as a rookie and 10 in 2018.
He’s improved every year, with the analytic website Pro Football Focus noting his grade against the run has improved every season, from 57.5 as a rookie to 63.9 in 2018. He was in on 13 percent of defensive snaps in 2017 and 22 percent last season.
Jones suffered a hamstring strain in the victory over the Rams, and is listed as day-to-day as the 5-0 Niners prepare for a trip Sunday to play at 1-5 Washington.
But Jones is a big part of the defensive line rotation and a stalwart against the run.
Defensive linemen who rush the passer and get sacks – such as Ford, Nick Bosa and DeForest Buckner – get the most attention, but Jones is fine with that.
“Nose guards? We do what we do,” Jones said. “We stay in the gap, we hit the gap, let the linebackers make plays, we make a few plays. But I’m just a team guy. We’re 5-0. I have no problem.”
Sunday’s game in Washington is set for kickoff at 10 a.m. (Bay Area time).