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49ers DC DeMeco Ryans praises impact and health of DT D.J. Jones

Dec 2, 2021 at 7:03 PM--

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San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle D.J. Jones is proving to be a great example of the old football saying "the best ability is availability."

Jones hasn't played a full slate of games in a single season since joining the 49ers as a sixth-round draft pick in 2017, with injuries often standing in the way. But this season is turning out to be different for Jones as he's remained healthy and is making a noticeable impact as a result.

Jones has a career high 35 tackles to go with one sack, one forced fumble, and five tackles for loss through eleven games this season. His success in 2021 can be traced back to the effort he made throughout the offseason, which is something 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans praised him for after practice on Thursday.

"Big credit to DJ," Ryans said during a post-practice media session. "I think when he came into camp, he came back probably in the best shape that he's been in. And he's sustained that throughout the entire year. So it's just a credit to how D.J. has worked in the offseason. He hasn't missed a ton of time. He's been available to showcase his talent. And that's what you see. He's been out there, he's been able to showcase a consistent and dominant player inside. So it's a credit to him and just how he's worked from the offseason and how it's paid off for him throughout the year."

Playmaking ability is something Jones has shown since he was a rookie, but Ryans says there's been more of it on display this season.

"From the beginning he's always kind of been up-and-down, a splash player," Ryans said. "But I've seen him grow from the standpoint of him just being a more consistent player. He's been playing very consistent, and he's been dominant. He's been playing on the other side of the line of scrimmage, which he can do consistently, and that's what he's proven. That's how he's grown since he's been here. He's just become a more consistent, more dominant force inside. That's the reason we continue to play good defense is because of D.J. and what he does up front for us."

Ryans mentioned Jones on Thursday as a reason the 49ers have shown improvement against the run. But Jones has also made an impact on opposing quarterbacks, with an example coming in the 49ers' recent win against the Minnesota Vikings when he got his hands up in front of Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins before Cousins threw a pass that wound up getting intercepted by 49ers linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair.

"If he doesn't do what he does with getting his hands up there, Kirk is able to make a clean throw there," Ryans said. "So I think D.J. getting his hands up, affecting the quarterback there, that has everything to do with Azeez being able to get that interception."

Jones needs just four more games to set a new career high for games played in a single NFL season. He'll reach that mark if he stays healthy the rest of the way, and if he can stay on the field for every game, it'll be the cherry on top of what has been a quality 2021 performance.

"For me it's huge," Jones said Thursday. "Like you all know, I haven't been on the field the past few years for all the games. Something here and something there. But it's a blessing to be on the field for eleven out of eleven games, so hopefully we can make it the rest."

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