NFL

Jones provides spark to Pats defense

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP)

New England's Chandler Jones on Wednesday was selected the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for November.

While the Patriots defensive end was thrilled with the honor, he wishes the award could have been shared among more players.

Ten more, to be exact.

''If it was up to me, I would like to be AFC Defense of the Month, because I couldn't do it without those guys, the 10 guys out there on the field with me, like our secondary, our linebackers,'' Jones said.

''They do a great job of freeing me up, holding guys up. I'm getting a lot of coverage sacks. So, I'm enjoying it.

''It's a great accolade and congrats to our defense.''

Jones had four sacks and 16 total tackles in helping the Patriots go 2-1 in November. The second-year player has 10 1/2 sacks on the season, fifth-most in the league, and his two-year total of 16 1/2 ranks third in team history for the most in a player's first two seasons in the league. Only Garin Veris (21) and Chris Slade (18 1/2) had more.

Coach Bill Belichick said Jones has improved since his rookie season, when he missed two games in November due to an ankle injury, but still finished with 45 tackles and three forced fumbles.

''I think Chandler has played much more consistently this year than last year. Although I thought he did a lot of good things last year, too, but his game has come up and we've asked him to do more,'' Belichick said. ''He's taken on more responsibilities, played in different positions, but I think he's having a solid season.''

Jones' added duties stem from losses that have hurt New England's defense, including season-ending injuries to veteran defensive linemen Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly.

Jones has risen to the occasion in their absence, too, providing stability and leadership to a defensive line that features a pair of starting rookies, along with veteran defensive end Rob Ninkovich.

''I think he's done a good job of trying to step up, be more vocal,'' Belichick said.

''Without Vince in there, the communication has certainly fallen more on Rob (Ninkovich) and Chandler. But again, communication is an 11-man job, it's not just a one-man job.

''But they're a key part of it because of their experience and their overall playing skill. I think Chandler is certainly more capable and ready to do it than he was last year and we've needed him to do it.''

On Sunday, Jones will get a chance to watch another of the game's young, talented pass-rushers when the Patriots (8-3) play the Houston Texans (2-9).

Defensive end J.J. Watt led the league last season with 20 1/2 sacks and also deflected 16 passes, the most among any linemen in the league. Despite a drop-off in production this season with 9 1/2 sacks and four deflections, Watt still has managed to impress his counterpart.

''He's a great player,'' Jones said. ''He has great moves inside and outside and he's fun to watch.''

But while he clearly has progressed from his rookie season, Jones credited the entire defense for improving in the wake of adversity.

''Not just me, but I feel like our defense made a lot of progress, as far as being consistent,'' he said. ''A lot has to do with just the game plan and buying into what the coaches are saying and executing.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Tagged: Patriots, Texans, Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones

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