View Full Version : Rulon Jones: Sack Leader Mountain Man of Defense Helps Broncos to the Peak

Bronco Rob
04-08-2010, 12:49 PM
Rulon Jones: Sack Leader
Mountain Man of Defense Helps Broncos to the Peak

January 14, 1987|SAM McMANIS, Times Staff Writer

DENVER The two places where Rulon Jones feels most at home are some remote and peaceful section of the Rocky Mountains, where he's hard to find, or in the congested and concussive area of an opposing team's backfield, where he can be found quite often.

Life without either of those diverse pleasures is something that Jones, the Denver Broncos' All-Pro defensive end, has never had to experience for prolonged periods.

Jones, a key figure in the Broncos' ascent to the AFC championship and a trip to the Super Bowl, has practically made the offensive backfield his in-season residence.

He led the Broncos with 13 1/2 quarterback sacks and 96 tackles during the regular season, for instance. And the three regular-season safeties he has recorded during his career leave him just one away from tying the National Football League record. Jones actually got his fourth safety two weeks ago, in the playoff game against the New England Patriots, but the league does not mix regular-season and playoff statistics.

Record or not, Jones called his sack of Patriot quarterback Tony Eason in the end zone at Mile High Stadium, which clinched the Broncos' win, the biggest play of his seven-year career. It certainly attracted attention to Jones, whom publicity has customarily eluded.

Not that Jones has gone looking for it. He seems content to just occasionally flatten quarterbacks, swat away a few passes, corral running backs and then hop into his Jeep and return to his mountain retreat.

When he appeared alongside Coach Dan Reeves and quarterback John Elway at a press conference the day before Denver's 23-20 win over Cleveland last Sunday, Jones looked strikingly like the Marlboro man--without the cigarette, of course.

A strapping 6 feet 6 inches and 260 pounds with thinning blond hair and what romance novelists call rugged good looks, Jones didn't seem to fit. Maybe it was because he was the only guy in the room wearing a flannel shirt and jeans, or because he was asked only three questions throughout the entire half-hour ordeal.

If folks don't know about Jones, though, it's not because he lacks talent. United Press International named Jones the AFC's defensive player of the year. And for the last two seasons, Jones has been classified with Raider defensive end Howie Long and New York Jet end Mark Gastineau.

Those comparisons, however, do not extend beyond the playing field.

Long and Gastineau are outspoken and charismatic. Jones is soft-spoken and diplomatic. You can see Long every weekend on shaving-cream commercials, and Gastineau hawks shampoo and a sure-fire way to make your body as svelte as his. If Jones ever did a commercial, it probably would be for granola.

Jones doesn't mind the lack of attention. "Those guys promote themselves very well, which is fine," he said. "But that's not part of my personality. I'm not worried about that, and maybe I'm hurting myself because of that. I'm not the kind of guy who's going to do a dance to get recognized or anything.

"Whatever I do is me--it's not something I have manufactured. If people like me, they like me because of who I am on and off the football field."

This season, more than any other, Jones has been noticed. But it seems mostly because he was one of the league's best at rushing--and sacking--the quarterback. Jones says there is a distinct difference between rushing and sacking.

Midway through the season, Jones was on a pace to break Gastineau's 1984 record of 22 sacks in a season. But Jones didn't get a sack the last five games and finished with the 13 1/2. But don't even hint to Jones that some sort of a slump might have set in.

"Toward the end of the year, we weren't getting many sacks," Jones said. "But Joe (Collier, the Broncos' defensive coordinator) talked to me and the defensive line about it because we were getting frustrated. We weren't doing anything differently. Maybe we just played against some quarterbacks who didn't like to get sacked."

There is a certain attraction to sacking a quarterback, especially when that sack results in a safety. Jones likes to say that the closer a quarterback gets to the end zone, the more attractive he becomes.

"For a defensive lineman, a safety is like a home run, but you don't often have a chance to score one," Jones says. "So, you definitely think about it."

On the other hand, Jones also says that sacks are overemphasized.

"For a lot of years, I didn't have a lot of sacks," he said. "That's because we played a three-man rush here. The year before I got here in Denver, they had 19 sacks (as a team) and were No. 1 in defense. Sacks are overrated, as long as you consistently pressure the quarterback.

"Like (against Cleveland, Brown quarterback Bernie) Kosar threw two interceptions because of our pressure. That's a lot better thing to happen than a sack. It's unfortunate that people say: 'He's had a good year. See how many sacks he has.'

"I think I've played as good as I ever have, but I think, in terms of beating people one on one and making good moves and being on top of my game, I've had other years just as good."

That may be true, but even Jones admits that this has been his most enjoyable season. Late last season, Collier experimented with the idea of a four-man rush and giving Jones the freedom to line up somewhere else besides his right end spot if the mood strikes.

During the off-season, Reeves and Collier decided to make that experiment the Broncos' regular defensive alignment. It has confounded offensive linemen assigned to Jones all season. One play, he'll be at his customary right end position. Next, he may be where the defensive tackle should be. Next series, he'll shift to left end.

It is also normal now for Jones and linebacker Karl Mecklenburg to stunt and cross paths on the pass rush. That really confuses people.

Said Jones: "I think (Collier) felt we needed to be a more aggressive type of defense. We were basically a reacting type of defense (last season). It was exciting to me when they decided on this in the off-season. I knew right then we'd have a good year as a defensive unit. It fits the personality of me and all the defensive players."

Jones' style emphasizes wits and agility more than strength and bulk. He never goes into a confrontation with an offensive tackle unaccompanied. He always brings along a variety of deceptive moves and the element of surprise.

Before last Sunday's AFC championship game, offensive linemen Paul Farren and Cody Risien of the Browns knew they were going to have tough time against Jones.

"He never does the same thing twice," Farren told a group of writers. "He's constantly switching his technique, doing this, doing that. You can't ever get a rhythm against him."

Added Risien: "He ducks. He spins. He crawls. Anything to get to the quarterback."

Jones, who believes that pass rushing is more a matter of leverage than sheer strength, doesn't think his technique is unusual.

"Finesse and concentration is what it's all about," Jones said. "(Confusing) the offense is the situation you like to have. Any time you start to have success doing one thing, they tend to overreact and play that move. That's when you do something else."

On Jones' noted sack of New England's Eason for a safety late in the Broncos' first playoff game, Jones faked a stunt to the outside and then ran untouched through the line.

The sack increased the Broncos' lead from three points to five and gave them possession of the ball with less than two minutes left.

Said veteran Denver linebacker Tom Jackson: "We may look back on that as the biggest play in Broncos' history."

That's debatable, but it certainly is special to Jones. The memory of that play will no doubt warm him on cold nights in the Rockies.


Dr. Broncenstein
04-08-2010, 12:51 PM

Easily my second favorite Bronco of all time.

04-08-2010, 12:53 PM
Did I step into a time machine?

Bronco Rob
04-08-2010, 12:55 PM
Did I step into a time machine?


04-08-2010, 01:32 PM
I thought some of the clowns at the mane digging up 2 year old threads was crazy... but from 1987 takes the cake.

04-08-2010, 03:34 PM
Did I step into a time machine?