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Naz Jones knows the pressure is on for Seahawks’ D-line

Second-year DT Nazair Jones had a strong rookie season with the Seahawks. (AP)

Second-year defensive tackle Nazair Jones is carrying quite the weight on his shoulders. After a promising rookie season with Seattle, he’ll be one of the most important players on the team’s young defensive line.

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He’s not quite ready to call himself a veteran yet, though.

“I mean, they won’t even let me say I’m not a rookie now because you’ve got that three game rule for the next year,” Jones said with a laugh, speaking with Bob Stelton and Tom Wassell during an interview on 710 ESPN Seattle. “So technically, in NFL terms, I’m still a rookie.”

That doesn’t mean he’s not aware of the pressure.

“I’m more of a tune-everything-out kind of guy,” Jones said, “(but) I know this is a big year for me and a big opportunity for me to step up and show the world what I can do.”

What he can do is help bolster Seattle’s interior D-line and provide help to a pass rush in Seattle’s first year since the departure of veteran defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Projected starters Frank Clark and Dion Jordan are also limited or out of training camp with injuries.

Things started pretty well for Jones last year. In the first drive of his career, he intercepted Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for a pick-six. The play was later called back after a Seattle penalty, but the end result left Seattle and Jones with two impressions: first, the rookie had potential to have a more immediate impact. And second, Rodgers is a really, really strong passer.

“The crazy thing is, what a lot of people don’t know, is the ball went through my facemask and hit me in the eye,” Jones said. “The front of the ball hit in me in the eye while I was catching it, so my first five or six steps I couldn’t even see anything. My eyes were closed. I had no clue if anybody was in front of me, I was like well I gotta run… I literally haven’t played a snap after that without a shield.”

Jones finished the year with 10 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. And while he’s still considering himself a rookie, Jones has put in work over the last several months to improve for his sophomore season.

“(NFL game speed) was a big jump that I had to take, just playing up to speed and competing every single snap. And then the physicality thing; a lot (of people) think that because it’s a passing league now it’s not very physical, but it’s a very physical game… even with the new helmet rule. Taking that, what I know, and just learning how to be a better pass rusher, how to study film… all of that stuff just went on throughout the offseason. I just tried to build on that and come back better than I’ve ever been.”

Jones also talked about his new defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., what it was like to play football at a basketball university (North Carolina), and his path to Seattle. Listen to Jones’ full interview with Bob, Groz, and Tom above, or on the podcast page here.

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