LB Jonas Mouton (USA Today Sports)
Jonas Mouton is done biding his time. After missing most of 2011 with a shoulder injury and being stuck on the inactive list for this season’s first 12 games, he has cracked the rotation and gotten back to what he does best -- tormenting ball carriers. He talks to SDBoltReport.com about learning from John Pagano, following Donald Butler’s footsteps and more.
Jonas Mouton, San Diego’s second-round pick in 2011, is used to dominating the competition. He did exactly that during his senior season at Michigan, where he put up 117 total tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble. But his NFL career has been quiet to this point, due to a shoulder injury that sent him to injured-reserve in 2011 and a deep linebacker corps that tied him to the inactive list for the first three-quarters of this season. But he is part of the rotation now and has no plans on going back.
A terrific athlete, Mouton is known for his closing speed and physicality. He sheds blockers well and delivers a pop when tackling. He can also make plays against the pass, as he gets good depth on his drops and is underrated as a blitzer. Now that his window of opportunity is wide open, the key is for him to put it all together and emerge as the latest cog in San Diego’s suddenly dominant defensive front seven.
For more on his development and his goals going forward, we go one-on-one with the imposing inside linebacker.
Brian Ducoffe: When you were drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft, a lot of so-called experts called the pick a “reach.” How much attention do you pay to stuff like that? And do you use any of it as motivation?
Jonas Mouton: No. Do I listen to those people? No. As far as a percentage, I would say maybe five to ten percent of my time is spent listening to stuff like that.
BD: Your early career path is similar to that of teammate Donald Butler, who also missed his rookie season due to injury. Donald is now one of the team leaders on defense. How much do you two talk about that and what have you learned from his experience?
JM: Yeah, we definitely talk about different things that may happen or could happen in the future. Even on a day-to-day basis just about working and getting better. But Donald plays a different position so it’s a little bit different, although there are similarities between his and my rookie year. And we talk all the time. On the field, off the field, Donald and I are real close.
BD: After waiting more than a season and a half, what did it mean to you to finally get your chance to play in the regular season?
LB Jonas Mouton
Jake Roth/USA Today Sports
JM: It was great. A part of me felt like I just wanted to go make every play that was out there, but everybody just kept saying to me, “Just do what you got to do. Just work. Remember your responsibilities and just take it one play at a time.” That’s pretty much what I did and I enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to finishing the season and hopefully we can get into the playoffs so I can play as much as I can this year.
BD: That leads me into my next question. Despite a 5-8 record, the Chargers are still mathematically alive in the playoff race. Does this team still talk/think playoffs?
JM: I feel like the mentality of this team is “win.” Just win. Win at practice, win our games, just win every day. We want to win at everything we do and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish here: winning.
BD: Based off the team’s mentality, how do you plan on winning this week? You host the Carolina Panthers. Talk about the challenges they present, in particular QB Cam Newton, who is so different from Philip Rivers.
JM: Yeah, there’s definitely a difference. He’s a different threat. It’s becoming more common. You still get people like Denver, who don’t have the option-running quarterback. But Cam is a phenomenal athlete. He’s got a strong arm and they run it well. We’ll definitely have our hands full, but we’re prepared for it.
BD: So how are you adjusting to the increase in playing time?
JM: I’m just trying to take advantage of it. When I’m out there, I’m playing. After missing last year and missing most of this year, I’m just trying to take advantage of all the opportunities that come my way.
BD: John Pagano has developed guys like Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips. What kind of impact has he had on your development?
JM: He was my position coach last year. It was great. I learned a lot under him, personally, from working with him every day. So now as the D-coordinator it’s a bit of a move, obviously, from being a position coach and being able to work individually with guys. But he’s still all encouragement. Everything is positive. And he’s a great guy. I like to be around him. I like to be coached by him.
BD: There are a couple recent first-rounders in your linebacker corps: Melvin Ingram and Larry English. What can you tell us about those two and the potential the three of you present to the Chargers?
JM: I think something we all have in common is our work ethic. We all love to play the game, come out every day, work hard and really focus on getting better. I think it’s something we all share.
BD: And then you add in guys like Corey Liuget.
JM: Oh yeah, Corey is a phenomenal athlete, real strong. And he’s a Big Ten guy!
BD: There has been speculation about coaching and front office changes possibly coming at the end of the season. Dean Spanos denied a report released last week and then you ended up winning in Pittsburgh. How much of that infiltrates the locker room and does that motivate or distract players?
JM: In my opinion, the guys don’t pay attention to that stuff. We’re here to work every day, trying to get better and that’s pretty much our main focus. We’re worrying about winning games and getting better. Each day you just come out to work and that’s pretty much the mentality for these guys.
BD: I know you don’t want to speculate about coaching changes, but one name that has been out there as a possible head-coaching candidate is Rich Bisaccia, your special teams coach. What can you tell us about him and his coaching style?
JM: I honestly don’t know anything about that stuff. I don’t know about anybody potentially, being, or anything like that stuff so I think it’s best that I don’t speak on that.
BD: Final question: What can we expect from you not only in these next three games, but in 2013 and beyond?
JM: I just love to play the game. You can definitely expect to watch a guy who loves to play, who loves to play hard and physical, and I’m going to be the guy who gives it all he has on every down.
What does the future hold for Jonas Mouton? Discuss inside the message boards.
Brian Ducoffe is in his second year of covering San Diego sports. He has been previously published in University Link Magazine and wrote as an NBA columnist for Gacksports.com. Follow Brian on twitter @brianducoffe.