The 49ers did not count on nose tackle D.J. Jones to provide much of a pass rush during his first three NFL seasons.
But with DeForest Buckner now with the Indianapolis Colts, the team will be looking for a combination of players to help compensate for the loss of the team’s top inside defensive force.
Jones believes he is capable of contributing much more in an expanded role from what he has been asked to do since entering the NFL as a run defender.
“I know I have it in me,” Jones said. “I just need the opportunity and I need to continue to work at my craft to get better.”
Jones was the starter on base downs last season before he sustained a high-ankle sprain in the 49ers’ Week 14 game at New Orleans. He was placed on injured reserve, ending his season before the start of the playoffs. Jones generally was taken off the field in passing situations.
Jones said his ankle is 100 percent healthy. He is running and cutting. He is training to play more snaps than ever before. And he has the voice of 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek ringing in his ears even from afar as the team goes through its virtual offseason program.
“If I don’t stop my feet, I feel like I can get to the quarterback,” Jones said. “The second my feet stop, I’m stuck in mud, and I’m not going to get to the passer. As long as I keep moving my feet, as my defensive line coach continues to tell me that’s what I’m working on, I can get to the quarterback.”
[RELATED: How 49ers' Jones plans to raise game with ankle healthy]
Jones registered his first two NFL sacks last season while playing in 11 games. On each of his sacks, Jones showed he has the physical ability to get after the quarterback on a more regular basis.
He demonstrated his quickness at 305 pounds to track down Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen for a sack in Week 8. Then, he showed brute force in steamrolling Seattle center Joey Hunt en route to sacking Russell Wilson two weeks later.
Jones was on the field for 147 pass plays last season, according to Pro Football Focus, had had seven quarterback hurries, along with his two sacks.
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