Defensive line stands tall without Jones

Despite the loss of Chandler Jones, the defensive end corps continues to make big plays. Now, as Jones returns to the practice field, the unit looks to become the strength of the Syracuse defense.


Going into this season, junior Chandler Jones was the player to watch on defense. After all, Jones was coming off a season with 57 tackles, four sacks and three forced fumbles. With five tackles and half a sack against Wake Forest, it seemed like Jones would pick up right where he left off.

Photo: Sterling Boin
Ball (95) celebrates with cornerback Kevyn Scott (26). The defensive end has made 13 tackles so far this season.

Then came the injury, an undisclosed lower-body ailment that has kept Jones off the field since that game. Even without Jones, though, the defensive end group has made its presence known. Syracuse (3-2, 0-1 road) will try to keep up the solid play in the Louisiana Superdome against Tulane (2-3, 1-1 home) in what could be the last game the unit plays without Jones.

Sans Jones, this group has made its mark over the past four games.

Mikhail Marinovich, the two-year starter opposite Jones, continued the solid play that has highlighted his career. After finishing last season with 30 tackles, four tackles for a loss and three sacks, the senior exploded through the first five games of the season for 18 tackles, two and a half tackles for a loss and two sacks. Marinovich recorded both of those sacks against Rutgers, the first of which caused Gary Nova to fumble.

“Personally, I feel like I played good,” Marinovich said of his play against Rutgers, a 19-16 loss. “But obviously, it wasn’t good enough to win the game. I think I made some mistakes that I’ve been trying to work on this week and clean up by watching film.”

But Marinovich has not been alone. There’s been the play of Brandon Sharpe, the junior defensive end from Virginia Beach, who has 10 tackles and one tackle for a loss. Sharpe played a role on the defensive line since he stepped on campus, and this year has been no exception.

Don’t forget about Torrey Ball either. The senior stepped into Jones’ former role, recording 17 tackles, two and a half tackles for a loss and one and a half sacks in the first starts of his career. His play has excited not only his teammates, but also his position coach, Tim Daoust.

“He is a high-motor,” Daoust says of the senior, “(He) gets the most out of his body and the ability that the good Lord gave him every single Saturday. So I’m really proud of him."

Daoust attributes Ball’s play to his offseason training, which has paid off given his performance this season. 

Marinovich also praises Ball for his work in place of Jones.

“He’s a completely different player than he was last year.” Marinovich says. “Physical ball right now. He’s a big asset for this defense.”

Remember, too, that this success comes in place of Jones, the player expected to lead the defense this season. 

The good news for the Orange is that Jones finally made his way onto the practice field this week. Though no timetable has officially been set for his return, the unit is still happy to have one of its best players back.

“It’s good to see him out there,” Marinovich said of Jones’ return. “We like to see him out there. We’re just hoping for the best.”

Jones is not the only defender making his return from injury. Safety Shamarko Thomas will return to the lineup against the Green Wave Saturday. Olando Fisher’s status is still uncertain for the weekend. It's unknown if Keon Lyn and Ri’Shard Anderson have healed since the loss against Rutgers.

With those injuries comes a need to pass rush as the team did against Rutgers, when it pressured both Chas Dodd and Gary Nova into hurried throws. To continue that success against Tulane, Marinovich believes the team needs to keep its momentum.

“I think we need to build on what we did last week and come out ready to go and attack off the ball,” Marinovich says. “I think we put a bit of emphasis on attacking, not reacting, and it showed last week on the field.”

That attacking led to eight tackles, three quarterback hits, two tackles for a loss and two sacks. With production like this, Daoust believes the defensive ends can be a major part of the Syracuse defense.

“I have an older group that I think has some ability in the room, so I have addressed it with them that ‘Hey, our football team needs us to get better each week and take on a bigger role.’” Daoust said. 

“They’re slowly starting to do that, so hopefully as we finish up here with Tulane and get into the Big East, we start to see that more and more often.”


Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.