NFL.com reports that rookie defensive end Chandler Jones will play the "elephant" position for the New England Patriots' defense.
It is the most important position in Bill Belichick's multiple schemes. He has featured it dating back to his days coaching New Yor Giants' great Lawrence Taylor.
Basically the "elephant" is a hybrid rush end, acting as either a traditional defensive end, or a standup linebacker, depending on the alignment and play-call.
The idea is to give the Patriots the flexibility to employ multiple looks and seamlessly morph between 3-4 and 4-3 fronts. Blending fronts is a key part of Belichick's philosophy and it is determined by the actions of the "elephant."
Since his arrival in New England, Belichick has used various players in the role, with varying degrees of success. Willie McGinest was exceptional, but Adalius Thomas struggled to handle the hybrid responsibilities.
Tully Banta-Cain tried hard, but never truly mastered the role. The absence of a hybrid rush threat has done the most to damage the Patriots defense and the pressure will be on Jones to deliver.
Andre Carter performed the role in 2011 and managed to record 10 sacks. While Jones has the athleticism to match those numbers, being the "elephant" places multiple responsibilities on a player.
Jones will have to be strong enough to set a hard edge in the running game and smart enough to recognise pass reads. He will be asked to drop into short zones and cover the flats, as well as destroying the pocket from the perimeter.
At 6'5" and 260 pounds, Jones has the ideal size and frame for the job. His length and initial quickness make him a natural edge-rusher. He uses his hands well and has the agility and fluidity of a true hybrid defender.
If Jones can master the "elephant" role, Belichick and coordinator Matt Patricia will be able to open up the playbook and direct the kind of varied, attacking defense they like.