Is rookie Datone Jones the answer at defensive end for the Packers?
By Tyler Dunne, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
~GREEN BAY — Scouting defensive linemen has been a challenge for Ted Thompson and the Packers. Ninth overall pick B.J. Raji worked out. The other 13 he has taken? Not so much.
Penetrating, pass-rushing, long-armed defensive ends to anchor the 3-4 defense have eluded the Packers. This spring, Green Bay hopes it finally has an answer. First-round pick Datone Jones, a former high school point guard, is the type of athlete who could reverse the trend. His scheme in the pros is very similar to what he had at UCLA under Jim Mora Jr.
The Packers have other pieces at the position. C.J. Wilson has done yeomen’s work as a run defender. Ryan Pickett is versatile and still going strong, but turns 34 years old in October. Green Bay is experimenting with Mike Neal at linebacker. Mike Daniels is probably best suited as a high-effort, rotational player.
Jerel Worthy won’t be seeing the field for a while. Johnny Jolly? Don’t hold your breath.
It’s on Jones to be the difference-maker — right away — in Green Bay’s pursuit of San Francisco.
UCLA defensive line coach Angus McClure believes Jones will handle this jump with ease.
“They’re getting a player with great versatility,” McClure said. “Datone is the type of player where he can play anywhere on the defensive line, so he has the experience to do it. That’s what they’re getting. They’re getting a guy who can line up on the offensive tackle. They have a guy who can move inside and play on the guards, too.”
Size (6-4, 283), arm length (32 ¾ inches) and overall technique refined by Mora’s staff is what allows Jones to slide along the line, McClure added. True, even before he was drafted by the Packers, Jones was mentally drawing up X’s and O’s in Green Bay’s defense.
Maybe he does fill the void.
Cullen Jenkins only lasted two seasons in Philadelphia and it would have cost a lot to keep the veteran in Green Bay. But considering how each of the last two seasons ended, the price probably would have been worth it. A championship window wide open — with one 15-1 team and another 11-5 group — his absence was felt. And that absence affected all those around the position, too.
So for the third time in four years, Green Bay took a defensive end in the first two rounds. This time, Jones.
He was disruptive in college. Within a NFL-ready scheme, one with very similar terminology to Dom Capers’ system in Green Bay, Jones finished with 19 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Inside and outside, Jones discarded blockers with ease. The highlight reel reveals a man amongst boys.
Still, that’s the case for a lot of prospects.
Considering the Packers need Jones to play immediately, will this athleticism transfer?
“I definitely think it will transfer over,” McClure said. “Certainly any time you move up a level in football, it’s going to take some time to adjust but he understands the schematics. Datone is one of those guys who’s going to get better and better.”
Not many defensive linemen grew up on the Compton basketball courts with the likes of DeMar DeRozan and James Harden. Jones is a rare athlete. Ideally, the Packers may target soft spots along an offensive line and have the versatile Jones attack. He can play different techniques. And he also has an outgoing, hungry persona that should be healthy for any locker room, any front seven. College coaches and teammates and coaches describe a palpable energy to his game.
For now, anyways, the arrow is pointing up. Yet like all those defensive linemen before him, nobody will know for sure if Jones is for real until September.
“I think Datone’s going to get even better in the NFL,” McClure said. “Datone’s like a sponge. He’s extremely coachable. I know the Packers will take him to the next level, no question.”
Original story here