Packers take Datone Jones to boost defensive front : Packers Insider

Packers take Datone Jones to boost defensive front

April 26, 2013 by  
Filed under News

By Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel

~Green Bay – Bound and determined to reinforce their depleted defensive line, the Green Bay Packers opted for the height and athleticism of UCLA end Datone Jones over the versatility and power of North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams Thursday night in the first round of the National Football League draft.

Jones, 6 feet 4 inches and 280 pounds, is the prototypical base end that teams with 3-4 schemes crave but the Packers have played without for the last four seasons.

Williams (6-2½, 313), who went two picks later to Denver at No. 28, offered more run-stopping potential but wasn’t as dangerous in the pass rush.

“I liked him,” general manager Ted Thompson said, referring to Williams. “We liked him.

“We talked about (Jones’) length. I don’t think that can drive your decision. But we were looking for something a little bit different than what we have.”

The Packers started C.J. Wilson (6-3, 300) at base end most of last season with Mike Neal (6-3, 295) in reserve. Ryan Pickett (6-2, 335) and B.J. Raji (6-1½, 337) shuffled back and forth between nose tackle and three-technique defensive tackle in the 3-4.

Jerel Worthy, the team’s second-round pick a year ago, stands 6-2½ and late in the season weighed about 285.

“We added another good athlete and a guy with a little bit more speed,” said Thompson. “When you can add a little speed to the defense, we feel it’s a good idea.”

Jones runs 40 yards in 4.80 seconds compared to 5.01 for Williams and 5.05 for Worthy.

At UCLA, Jones, a fifth-year senior, had 13½ sacks in 51 games (43 starts) and 36½ tackles for loss.

With Worthy doubtful to play a contributing role in 2013 because of reconstructive knee surgery in mid-January, Jones will be expected to become an immediate fixture in the nickel defense alongside either Neal or Raji.

“He’s explosive off the line of scrimmage,” said Thompson. “He’s got the ability to close on the ball. He’s a good-looking kid. He’s an athletic guy.”

UCLA Athletics - 2012 UCLA Football versus Oregon State Beavers at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA. September 22nd, 2012 Copyright Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography

One reason some personnel people regarded Jones as a second-round choice was his arm length. They measured 32¾ inches, the shortest among the 10 best defensive ends in the draft.

“I don’t know that he dropped,” Thompson said. “I don’t know where he was supposed to go. I was kind of surprised he was still there.

“He doesn’t play with short arms. We’ll see.”

On the other hand, Jones lifted 225 pounds on the bench press 29 times, which was third best among the top 10 ends.

Although Jones weighed 283 at the combine and 277 at Bruins pro day, Thompson said he easily could move up to the desired 295-pound range for base ends in Dom Capers’ system.

“He’s got a nice frame,” said Thompson. “I talked to him on the phone. He said he can (weigh) whatever.”

Does Jones have the hard-nosed, team-first mentality to sacrifice himself on early downs to free linebackers for tackles?

“Yeah,” Thompson replied. “He’s a football guy.”

Some of Jones’ athletic testing numbers didn’t approach some of the players destined to become ends for 4-3 teams but they still were very representative for a 280-pounder.

“He can run,” Thompson said. “He’s got quickness. He played nose tackle in some of their sets. We think he’ll be good in our ‘sub’ packages.”

Despite his shorter arms, Jones has held his own at the point of attack, according to Thompson.

When asked about Jones’ level of effort, Thompson said, “He’s a go-getter.”

Jones, 22, would have been in the draft last year if he hadn’t fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot during workouts shortly before the start of the 2010 season. He played the last two seasons without incident.

“He played the whole season this year,” Thompson said, referring to 2012. “Didn’t have any trouble.”

The Packers’ doctors examined the foot and signed off on it, the GM said.

The entire organization has been put on alert to do whatever it takes to ward off another siege of injuries.

“Tell me about it,” Thompson responded when asked about the importance of injury avoidance in 2013. “It is (big).”

Thompson had conversations with several teams early Thursday and a few more in the early stages of the draft.

“But when it got to be our pick we were pretty committed,” he said. “We had a couple names we thought were legitimate (picks).”

Asked if the Packers planned to draft a defensive lineman at No. 26, Thompson said, “Not necessarily. But we thought that would be a good idea if we could.”

Pickett, Raji and Johnny Jolly reported to off-season workouts two weeks ago well over their playing weights and in what the Packers regarded as poor condition.

Raji is entering the final year of his contract, and the Packers surely don’t want to be leveraged by Raji or anyone else in upcoming negotiations because they were bereft of talent at the position.

The versatility of Jones was evident in Journal Sentinel polls this month in which 16 personnel men were asked to rank players.

At 3-4 defensive end, Jones finished with 14 points to finish third behind Florida’s Sharrif Floyd (25) and Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson (20).

At 4-3 defensive end, Jones tied for fifth with 11 points behind Brigham Young’s Ziggy Ansah (43), Louisiana State’s Barkevious Mingo (24), Florida State’s Bjoern Werner (20) and Oregon’s Dion Jordan (14). At 4-3 defensive tackle, Jones finished 11th with two points.

“Datone’s a very versatile player,” said Thompson. “He played all up and down the line of scrimmage.

“He’s a very sharp guy. You’ll like him in the interview (process).”

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