OWINGS MILLS — Jon "Bones" Jones successfully defended his Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight belt in April.
He relentlessly punched and kicked his way to earn a unanimous decision over Rashad Evans, another triumph for one of the biggest stars in professional mixed martial arts.
Just a few weeks later, youngest brother Chandler Jones was selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the New England Patriots.
Now, the oldest of the Jones brothers is hoping to place his own exclamation point on what’s already been a proud year for parents Arthur Jones Sr. and Camille Jones.
Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones is competing for a starting job at left defensive end, a vacancy created when veteran Cory Redding signed a $10.5 million contract in March with the Indianapolis Colts.
As the oldest son, Jones doesn’t want to be upstaged by his younger brothers. He’s looking to keep the momentum going that his brothers started.
"It’s awesome, it’s a blessing," Jones said. "I feel like it’s a testament to hard work and dedication. It might sound like a cliché’, but if you work hard good things will happen to you. That’s what happens to my family. We work hard and we give God all the glory."
Heading into his third NFL season, Jones appears to be on the verge of forging a significant niche on the NFL’s third-ranked defense.
Last season, he recorded a career-high 18 tackles in 14 games with one start.
Now, the Ravens are counting on a larger contribution from Jones as he tries to fend off Pernell McPhee for a starting role.
It was Jones who took the majority of the work with the first-team defense during organized team activities and minicamps while McPhee was sidelined with a knee injury that required arthroscopic knee surgery.
"Oh man, I’m excited," Jones said. "Every day, I’m out here trying to get better in my technique and fundamentals. I’m excited to just compete. I’m having a great offseason all the way around. Each year, I want to make strides and be the best I can be. I can’t wait for this year."
Jones has spent the past few years transforming his body with diligent work in the weight room and sparring with his brother.
He has improved his diet and has dramatically upgraded his physique.
Still listed at 6-foot-3, 313 pounds, Jones’ body fat percentage is much lower than when the Ravens drafted him in the fifth round out of Syracuse three years ago.
"I’m nowhere near perfect," said Jones, who’s heading into the final year of a three-year, $1.43 million contract that included a $133,580 signing bonus. "I’m working on my game, pass run, everything. I’m trying to take full advantage to fine-tune my craft and technique and be an all-around better player."
At Syracuse, Jones was a team captain who finished his career with 145 tackles, 38 1/2 for losses, 6 1/2 sacks and four fumble recoveries.
He fell to the Ravens in the fifth round primarily due to injury concerns.
Jones relies upon advice from defensive line coach Clarence Brooks, All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and has remained in touch with Redding.
"I’ve learned a lot each year," Jones said. "I keep growing as a professional athlete, not just on the field. I’ve worked on the little things. I’ve become a better film watcher. I still talk to Cory. I’m really learning how to be a professional, hanging with Ray Lewis learning how he’s played this game so long."
As the son of a pastor and community activist, Jones shares a strong blue-collar work ethic with his younger brothers.
And Jones has remained an influential figure in their lives.
"I was protected," Chandler Jones said during a press conference after the Patriots drafted him with the 21st overall pick. "My older brothers, they look over me. Whenever I get in trouble, they’re always there to watch my back.
"We wrestled a lot, but it was for play. My dad had bought some wrestling mats and we used to wrestle down in the basement all the time."
That helped build toughness and character for Jones, two traits he’ll rely upon as he tries to beat out McPhee.
While Jones is bigger and stronger and perhaps more suited for stopping the run, McPhee is an athletic pass rusher who registered six sacks as a rookie to rank second on the defense behind NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs’ 14 sacks.
Jones and McPhee are much different players, but should form a solid tandem on the left side of the defensive line.
"Absolutely, Pernell is a hell of a player," Jones said. "I love watching him play. I’m his biggest fan and he cheers me on, too. It’s going to be a good competition, and we’re excited to compete. I’m pretty sure me and him can both get the job done."