Packers’ draft pick Datone Jones ready to make a point : Packers Insider

Packers’ draft pick Datone Jones ready to make a point

May 18, 2013 by  
Filed under News

By Tyler Dunne, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

~GREEN BAY – The demand seems simple enough. In today’s NFL, teams need large, athletic defensive linemen.

As the spread offense proliferates, defenses must dot the field with multiple defensive backs. And more players on the back end means fewer players up front. Disruptive interior pass rushers are at an all-time premium.

This player has eluded Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson, one of the game’s top talent evaluators. In Datone Jones this year, he hopes he finally has found an answer.

Jones says it’s a perfect fit. Packers coach Mike McCarthy says Jones “hit the lottery.” Now comes the hard part.

Datone Jones, who played at UCLA, is expected to bring some athleticism to the Packers’ defensive line.

Hold the point. Transition to a pass rush.

These players aren’t easy to find.

“The interior lineman,” said UCLA defensive coordinator Lou Spanos, “that’s tough business there because you have to obviously stop the run. And then on passing situations, on third down or second and long, now you have to transfer it over. In a split second, you have to use your quickness and your hands to beat the guard and get to the quarterback.

“Datone does a great job of transitioning from his run keys to his pass keys and then he’s really athletic. At his size (6 feet 4 inches, 285 pounds), he’s very athletic and uses his hands.”

Since 2005, Thompson has drafted 14 defensive linemen. At No. 9 overall in 2009, he nailed the B.J. Raji pick. Elsewhere, not so much. There was a historic bust (Justin Harrell), a sixth-round pick gone south (Johnny Jolly), talent hounded by injuries (Mike Neal), a solid one-dimensional run defender (C.J. Wilson) and undersized rotational rushers (Jerel Worthy, Mike Daniels).

He has not, however, found the defensive lineman capable of doing it all.

Considering about 75% of the game today is played with five and six defensive backs, all defensive coordinators better boast a down lineman capable of caving the pocket. In Dom Capers’ scheme, it’s essential. As repeated ad nauseam, he had that player in Cullen Jenkins in 2010 and the Packers won a Super Bowl.

Spanos’ first year with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a scout was Capers’ final year as defensive coordinator. Their paths hardly crossed. Still, he was around Dick LeBeau for two stints with the Steelers before taking over Jim Mora Jr.’s defense at UCLA in 2012. He was in the NFL from 1995-2011.

In that 2012 season, Jones’ game took flight. He finished with 62 tackles (19 for loss) and 5½ sacks.

“I think it was his approach to it,” Spanos said. “From Day 1, he knew that this was his last chance to make something in college. So he trusted Coach Mora, myself and our D-Line coach more often that this system is successful and works. He thought, ‘How can I be my own person in this system and blossom?’ ”

UCLA’s 3-4 terminology, Jones noted last weekend, is the same in Green Bay. He was not overwhelmed by the playbook. Chances are, he’ll dazzle off the ball through organized team activities and minicamp, too. The true questions about Jones – if he can wreak havoc inside – won’t be answered until the pads come on in August.

With the Bruins, he played all along the defensive line. Spanos asked Jones to hold the edge, to play the three-technique, to even rush over the head of the center. And while Jones – a former high school point guard and 100-meter sprinter – is athletic, Spanos makes a distinction.

He cautions not to confuse “athletic” with “finesse.”

September 8, 2012; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive end Datone Jones (56) brings down Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Taylor Martinez (3) in the end zone for a safety during the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

“Being athletic, he’s strong at the point. That’s what makes Datone special,” Spanos said. “You say, ‘Oh, he’s athletic.’ No, he’s not athletic as in finesse. He’s athletic as a football player. He’s strong at the point. Even against double-teams, he can hold the point. That’s what makes Datone a special player.”

Those before him haven’t been special. When Green Bay won the Super Bowl in North Texas, the injured Harrell was in the mountains of Tennessee with his family. That following off-season, Thompson finally cut his losses. The Mike Neal project shouldn’t be abandoned yet, but time’s ticking.

Worthy could miss all of the upcoming season while recovering from a knee injury. Daniels is best as a super-sub.

The starting ends in Green Bay’s base defense – Ryan Pickett and Wilson – were solid against the run last year. Yet combined, they have seven sacks in 145 games with the Packers.

It’s on Jones.

He says speed is “definitely” his strength and that he can fit in anywhere on Green Bay’s defense.

“I thought Green Bay took a big chance on me and I really took that to heart,” Jones said last weekend. “The one thing I wanted to make sure of when I got here is I wanted to work hard, learn my playbook, get familiar with my new teammates and have fun at practice and make sure I’m getting better every day.”

The job description is unique, especially in the NFC. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the read option. Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson. Offenses going with three and four wide receivers. The Packers can’t afford a one-trick pony at defensive end…. full story here

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