When most football fans, whether they root for the Buffalo Bills or some other franchise, think of defensive linemen, they think of defensive ends. That makes sense, too, as it’s typically the defensive ends who make the splash plays, sacking the quarterback and forcing fumbles in the backfield, thanks to their wizardry and gravity-defying moves along the edge.
However, people who watch the game and obsess over it — and if you’ve been reading a series on every single player on a Bills roster all summer long, then yes, this means you — don’t only think of those edge players when discussing defensive linemen. They think about the big fellas, the space-eaters, the guys doing the dirty work for little to no credit along the defensive interior. They give the defensive tackles their due, whether it’s someone like Kyle Williams, Ted Washington, or Fred Smerlas, or even someone lesser-known like a Mike Lodish or a Ron Edwards. Those die-hards recognize the contributions of the big fellas up front.
In today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days” — the literal 90th article in our series, though we still have a few players remaining — we discuss one of the unsung heroes of the team’s defense in 2022.
Name: DaQuan Jones
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 320 pounds
Age: 31 (32 on 12/27/2023)
Experience/Draft: 10; selected by the Tennessee Titans in the fourth round (No. 112 overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft
College: Penn State
Acquired: Signed with Buffalo on 3/16/2022
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Jones is in the final year of the two-year, $14 million contract he signed with the Bills last March. For the 2023 season, Jones carries a cap hit of $8,583,333 and a dead-cap number of $7,041,668 should the Bills decide to move on prior to Week 1. The contract also has a third, “void” year to spread the cap dollars around. Whether he’s with the club or not in 2024, Jones will count for at least $1,833,334 on Buffalo’s 2024 salary cap.
2022 Recap: Jones was the anchor of a revitalized Bills defensive line last season, starting in all 16 of the team’s regular-season games and the first of its two playoff games. He was the perfect fit for his role as a gap-plugger on the interior, not only eating double-teams and making life easier for his line mates, but also keeping bodies off of the team’s linebackers at the second level. Jones set a career-high in quarterback hits with 11 on the season. He played more snaps on defense (643, or 61.2%) than any other Buffalo defensive lineman. He was a vital part of what the team did, and he was a huge part of the reason why the Bills were able to suffocate opposing offenses throughout most of the season. He finished the regular season with 38 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, and one fumble recovery. Against the Miami Dolphins in Buffalo’s Wild Card Playoff victory, he had one tackle and one quarterback hit. He injured his calf somewhere in between that game and the Bills’ next contest, a 27-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He did not play in the final game.
Positional outlook: Jones is one of nine defensive tackles in camp. DJ Dale, Eli Ankou, Poona Ford, and Tim Settle—to an extent, as he can play multiple spots—are the other one-tech defensive tackles on the current roster. Jordan Phillips, Ed Oliver, Cortez Broughton, and Kendal Vickers are the others.
2023 Offseason: Jones is healthy, but he didn’t play in the team’s preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
2023 Season outlook: Jones is the linchpin to the front of Buffalo’s defense, and I know that sounds crazy given the mega-talented players that the team has on the edge. However, what head coach Sean McDermott cannot operate without is a space-eater at the one-tech spot — someone who can effectively remove bodies and traffic from those playmakers next to and behind the position in order to make their jobs easier. Jones has been able to do all the dirty work in his short tenure with the team, and while his contributions may go unnoticed by some, they aren’t unnoticed in this space. After watching guys like Star Lotulelei and Vernon Butler struggle mightily and earn rightful scorn for it, it’s nice to have a player in the middle who allows the defense to function exactly as it’s supposed to function.
The Poona Ford signing, honestly, seems as if it’s a direct reaction to how poorly the defense functioned overall against the Bengals. No disrespect to Eli Ankou, who has been a valuable member of Buffalo’s practice squad for a few years now, but there is no way that he should be starting a playoff game. Ford, hopefully, gives the team another strong option in the event that Jones is hurt, and it also should give them another good rotational piece to keep Jones fresher throughout the season.
Frankly, I’m surprised that the team hasn’t signed Jones to a small extension already, as he is too important a player to leave hanging in the balance on a one-year deal. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Bills sign him for another year by the end of August, pushing that void year to 2025 rather than 2024. In any case, Jones isn’t going anywhere this season, and the Bills are that much better for it.