A change of tune leaves Jones back in the heart of Packers' defense

-- At some point these last couple months, it appears Josh Jones has had a change of heart about his role in the Green Bay Packers' defense.

A primary contributor as a hybrid safety occasionally filling in as a nickel linebacker for each of his first two years in the league, Jones skipped out on the team's organized team activities earlier this spring and sat out of minicamp as well. In the midst of it all, he requested a trade in hopes of reigniting his career elsewhere -- somewhere that would net him more opportunities. Preferably, far and away from any duty involving him serving as a linebacker.

But Jones reported to training camp last week and has since earned starting reps with the Packers' first-team defense as precisely that: a linebacker. As a former second-round pick with all of the physical traits necessary to be successful, both Jones and the Packers are beginning to finally reap the rewards of his commitment to the team.

"We put that in the past," Jones said at his locker on Tuesday, addressing his previous discontent. "That's in the rearview. Here it is: it's July 30. I'm living in the present. The present is helping this team, going out there and competing. Helping the Packers get to where we want to be like I always said when I first got here."

Jones swapped numbers this offseason as well, changing from No. 27 to No. 24. According to him, everything is entirely new this season. A fresh start for a young, talented player embracing his responsibility and owning his situation. That situation, of course, being one that Jones thrived in during his rookie year -- and one that he has opposed to playing in entering 2019.

Jones far surpassed every statistical metric in his rookie year as opposed to his second season, whether it's interceptions, passes defended, sacks, tackles, tackles for losses or quarterback hits -- it was also the year he was first featured in the box as a linebacker. 

In a week three meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals, Jones recorded a pair of sacks and 12 tackles -- three of them being for a loss of yards. It was his highest amount of tackles in a game until week 16 of last season when he tied that total against the New York Jets.

"I feel like, at that position, I can be one of the best players in the league. That hybrid position," Jones said. "I feel like I will be."

Having Jones ready and available to tackle a hybrid role in a three-safety formation helps answer some of the Packers' questions at middle linebacker as well. While the team is hoping for a significant second-year jump from Oren Burks, the only prominent acquisition invested into the position was a seventh-round pick used on Ty Summers in April.

The Packers have been experimenting with second-year undrafted safety Raven Greene as a hybrid linebacker as well. Players have been rotating into various positions with first-round pick Darnell Savage still recovering from wisdom tooth surgery, leaving a spot open on the back end for any one of the backup safeties to earn reps.

General manager Brian Gutekunst, who dealt with Jones' trade request head-on, praised the defender's work output in camp prior to Tuesday's practice.

"I think Josh has had a really good beginning of camp," Gutekunst said. "In the four days, he's shown up and made some plays. Obviously, the physical gifts are all there. He's getting a lot of opportunity. There are some really positive signs that he could really help our football team.

"We got a long way to go. There's a lot of competition on the back end right now, but it's been really positive seeing him do what he's doing."

__________________________

Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (46)

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Paul_from_Scotland's picture

July 31, 2019 at 05:15 am

Packers need Jones right now so I'm OK with him throwing some toys out the pram as long as he stays in the pram for another season!

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Leatherhead's picture

July 31, 2019 at 09:39 am

Paul...can you explain the "toys in the pram" stuff?

IMO, Jones might want to reflect on another guy who wore #24, HOFer Willie Wood. A really good college QB, he got no interest from any NFL team....because he was black. So he wrote letters hoping to get a shot and the one he wrote to Lombardi worked and the rest is history.

Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% is what you do about it. Willie Wood overcame a helluva lot to make it to the HOF and Jones shouldn't feel that he can't force his way onto the field with his play.

We want to be able to put 5 guys on the field who can cover and tackle, and since these guys do get hurt you'd like to have 9 active on gameday. .Amos, Savage, Alexander, King, Williams, Jackson...that's six for sure. There's plenty of room on the roster for him if he can stay healthy and play well.

I'm glad he didn't choose to develop a mysterious injury. That would have been the wrong way to go, IMO. Now, worst case scenario is he doesn't make the roster and somebody else can pick him up.

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tm_inter's picture

July 31, 2019 at 02:10 pm

"Throwing some toys out the pram" means throwing a tantrum and acting in a childish way.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 31, 2019 at 06:00 pm

Thanks. I don't speak Scottish.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 31, 2019 at 06:00 pm

Thanks. I don't speak Scottish.

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packrulz's picture

July 31, 2019 at 05:22 am

I'm glad he's back to work. I think there's a place for him in Green Bay!

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BoCallahan's picture

July 31, 2019 at 05:24 am

Let’s see what happens once Savage returns.

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dobber's picture

July 31, 2019 at 07:49 am

All this off-season talk about cutting him, trading him, forcing him to play...bottom line is that the best situation for him and for the Packers is for him to play football and be good at it.

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Lphill's picture

July 31, 2019 at 05:41 am

I think we needed one more inside linebacker I am not sold on this hybrid theory, I think Burks is not the answer and it’s possible Ty Summers if he progresses as the season goes on takes over the other inside spot.

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holmesmd's picture

July 31, 2019 at 06:10 am

What do you know about Burks? He missed almost all of last season! Give the guy a chance. It’s only his 2nd year for god’s sake!!

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jeepingmakooi's picture

July 31, 2019 at 06:33 am

Considering that we don't know much about Burks at all and that bolten is taking reps over Summers... Your not paying attention to what's going on

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Coldworld's picture

July 31, 2019 at 07:06 am

Bolton is intriguing. He can certainly rush. So far of the three mentioned, the only one who has shown any coverage skill is Burks. Summers did show up with a tackle for a loss yesterday.

More time is needed. We need to see them all against the run. At this point Bolton and Summers look like developmental players with strengths but also gaps. Burks looks capable in all areas but lacks consistency. Crawford seems the most rounded otherwise, but we need to see them play.

Such small samples don’t really tell us much about players, particularly those in high contact positions. All we can say at this point is none look like they are merely bodies but none look like 53 locks either.

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dobber's picture

July 31, 2019 at 07:46 am

Certainly been plenty of good on Burks coming out of camp...some bad, too. Consistency seems to be the word with him right now.

Still, those hybrid ILB are in vogue right now and guys like Greene and Jones who can run and cover (at least a little) are a plus.

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Packers2020's picture

July 31, 2019 at 09:32 am

Lp,

Ty Summers is a 7th round pick. There is a reason he was drafted in the 7th. He will play on ST's this year, if he makes the team. If he is good enough, he may play in his 2nd or 3rd year if he makes the jump. 7th round picks do not become starters very often.

Burks is very athletic and has the ability. They key is the smarts and will he be able to adjust to the NFL. We will see.

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dobber's picture

July 31, 2019 at 09:53 am

Couldn't agree more on Summers. Some point to college injuries as to why he lasted, but aside from ankle problems as a senior, he's been very durable and played a lot of college football. By all accounts, he's a downhill ILB with good speed, but limited instincts in coverage...a faster, but perhaps more limited, Blake Martinez. I suspect his ceiling isn't playing next to Martinez, it's probably replacing him.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 31, 2019 at 09:45 am

I think if we lose Martinez to injury we're going to miss him. This is our leading tackler in the middle of our defense, Stanford smart, with sideline-to sideline range.

We probably want to line up six guys who can pressure and tackle: Martinez, Gary, Clark, Lowry, Smith, Smith, Adams, Fackrell, Burks, Lancaster.....that's 10 of our gameday 12 right there. There's only limited room for Fadol Brown and the rest.

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dobber's picture

July 31, 2019 at 09:51 am

I've said for a long time that perhaps Fackrell's best position was ILB--namely Martinez's position--where he could play in space more and on the edge less. That was before he hit double-digits in sacks. Still, if Martinez got hurt, I suspect we would see an amalgamation of Crawford, Fackrell, P. Smith and others picking up snaps.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 31, 2019 at 10:11 am

6'7" is kind of tall for an inside guy. I really don't know if we have anybody who could fill the hole that Martinez would leave. I think we'd probably have to get somebody in final roster cut downs..

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dobber's picture

July 31, 2019 at 10:52 am

Fackrell is 6'5", but you're right: not many inside guys are that tall.

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Coldworld's picture

July 31, 2019 at 12:21 pm

If I had to bet, it would be Crawford at this point.

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jmcderm15's picture

July 31, 2019 at 07:05 am

Good to hear Jones is back. With his size and athleticism, he can definitely make an impact if he remains healthy. Side note - did Savage wait till just before camp to have that wisdom teeth surgery? If so, he definitely should have taken care of that during earlier in the summer - he's missing valuable reps.

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KamThomps's picture

July 31, 2019 at 06:36 pm

Owing to a chronic condition I have, I had twelve teeth pulled on a Wednesday morning. On Thursday afternoon I had surgery for something else. On Friday, contrary to every sound medical principle, I took out the stitches in my mouth because they were more bothersome than the actual holes in the gums.

There has to be some system they are following that dictates a recovery time or the extractions did not go well. I did not even require pain meds after I removed the stitches.

All that aside --

The off-season is nearly over. Hallelujah!

Go, Pack go!

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Coldworld's picture

July 31, 2019 at 07:13 am

Possibly Savage wasn’t expecting to have to have it done? That’s the impression I get. Once diagnosed, sooner the better: do it before camp not during.

Yes it’s good that Jones seems to have refocused. That said, we still need him to show that he can earn a spot as a consistent contributor in the 3rd linebacker role. His time deep so far has not been impressive from what I hear. So he needs to start getting noticed for his LB play.

So far I have not seen or heard that he has made a splash other than through the fact of being given the opportunities. He is like Spriggs, he needs to show he can and should play or we need to move on. I am glad he seems to want to and that the team is giving him every chance to make an impact; still need to make the impact.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

July 31, 2019 at 07:25 am

Thats my assumption too. He went in for a cleanging got the x-rays and the dentist told him they'd need to come out in the next 6 months. Conversations happened with the Packers and it was decided to get it done now. It's all pretty straight forward probably.

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Spock's picture

July 31, 2019 at 02:28 pm

And it's possible that after being told he needed it done soon a rookie player was waiting (just like the rest of us) for his new (NFL) insurance to okay the procedure. We tend to forget these are college kids with new jobs and new insurance. :)

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fastmoving's picture

July 31, 2019 at 07:27 am

Pretty sure he wasnt expecting it. That self evident. Dont understand that smarties asking 10 times everyday.
Of course with the mention how brave they were with here 4 teeths. They get them out in here lunch break and work 24/7 shifts….....

Glad Jones is doing good. He has some upside, way too early to give up. Even to know that a lot of guys here are big fans of giving up early on players. But also on seasons and games

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dobber's picture

July 31, 2019 at 07:47 am

Every case of the teeths is different.

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jmcderm15's picture

July 31, 2019 at 08:04 am

agreed - just frustrating to see a rookie who's supposed to be an every down guy for us missing early practices... but better now than later of course.

To add on your point about Jones, couldn't agree more, especially with the 2nd round pick we used on him. Better to see if he can fit somewhere else on the defense before moving on..

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Tundraboy's picture

July 31, 2019 at 08:23 am

Guy has a great smile. Have to be careful not to mess it up.

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carlos's picture

July 31, 2019 at 07:33 am

A couple things. Wisdom teeth can be horrific. Believe me I know. Especially when they grow sideways. Easy to get an infection which could set you back easily another week. He’s losing reps early, but best now than during season. Hopefully Jone’s attitude stays on point and I do think in the modern era there is a place for this hybrid” linebacker/ safety. Especially a physical speed guy. Does he drop into coverage, stuff the run, blitz, or crash a gap? Petine can utilize a guy like Jones. Hope it works for him. Also adds depth to some players, like Green, who can be shuffled around causing confusion. Go Pack!!

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sam1's picture

July 31, 2019 at 07:35 am

It seems what after like 5 days of practices some of the head coaches on this site have already kicked some players to the curb! Wait until cuts come and the new regime decide who can play and who can't and what position!

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

July 31, 2019 at 08:00 am

It would be a pretty boring site if people waited until cuts to make comments. I like reading everyones’ takes even if some have been day drinking. This time of year it’s just fun to read about football.

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Guam's picture

July 31, 2019 at 07:50 am

Glad to hear Jones has decided to give ILB a try as he spent his first two years pretty well proving he is not a starting grade safety in the NFL. I hope he finds success at ILB as we are thin there and his athleticism would be valuable. Let's see what happens when the pads are on.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 31, 2019 at 10:14 am

He just doesn't cover well enough to play DB in the NFL, so he either needs to improve his coverage or play hybrid linebacker. That's anywhere, not just Green Bay.

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Guam's picture

July 31, 2019 at 07:51 am

deleted

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NMPF's picture

July 31, 2019 at 08:12 am

Though was pretty high on him when drafted, Jones has really shown nothing. A flash here and there. Not only that but how many times did you hear his name called on ST and it wasn't for lack of opportunities. Hope I'm wrong but looks like another TT early round mistake.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 31, 2019 at 10:30 am

Well, he's fast and he can tackle. He was 8th in special teams snaps, and 10th in defensive snaps. In only 13 games, he finished 3rd on the team in tackles behind Martinez and Alexander. So you should have heard his name called as often as you heard Clark or Tramon.

The 2017 draft included King, Jones, and Montravious Adams, along with our starting RB combo of Williams and Jones. Looks like a pretty decent draft to me, and if King can stay on the field it'll look better than that.

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OnWisconsinGoPack's picture

July 31, 2019 at 09:12 am

As long as Jones is a LB/Hybrid and he embraces it, that's all that matters. He can't cover that well, but he can be a force. Same size and measurables as Deon Jones or Mark Barron and they have done well

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Qoojo's picture

July 31, 2019 at 12:26 pm

Well, it's all hugs and smiles right now because he is getting time with the 1s due Savage's absence. The real story will be how he handles his drop in play time due to Savage coming back.

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sonomaca's picture

July 31, 2019 at 12:56 pm

Jones in doghouse for fighting. I don’t necessarily mind that. If he’s going to be a LB, need a little bit of nasty.

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Coldworld's picture

July 31, 2019 at 01:24 pm

“Matt LaFleur says his issue with Josh Jones is he doesn’t want players to tackle, as Jones did vs Tra Carson. Also said there’s a “zero tolerance policy” against fighting. LaFleur on pulling Jones: “I told him to get out at that particular moment.” Didn’t return.” Ryan Wood.

This was a lot dumber than playing past the whistle. This was a takedown on a dead rep against a teammate in a no tackling practice. Jones stood with his arms folded on the sideline for the rest of practice. LaFleur sounded none too pleased.

Jones just can’t seem to help himself. Again, no mention for positive play today.

Kizer didn’t have a great day. Moore and Shepherd, who seems to be starting to stack mentions too, on the positive side. Shepherd might just be this season’s camp dark horse superstar. He was on the first ST group yesterday.

Tonyan was also singled out for praise as was Hollman whom they let take the 2 minutes against the ones in King’s place (rested). Looks like these two continue to ascend.

Savage back on the field. Teethgate over!

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sonomaca's picture

July 31, 2019 at 01:48 pm

I guess Jones is just extremely immature. Let’s see what happens rest of camp. Zero trade value at this point.

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Lare's picture

July 31, 2019 at 02:13 pm

I doubt if Jones will be on the final 53, probably cut as I doubt anyone would trade for him.

Also, Jackson and Williams will probably be on IR. Hollman and Grant make the team.

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BradHTX's picture

July 31, 2019 at 02:44 pm

Not with your own teammate. That’s not “good nasty,” that’s dumb.

According to PackersWire, “Jones took issue with Carson bowling over cornerback Tony Brown.”

To me, that speaks to immaturity. Loyalty to your position mates is a good thing. Getting into a fight with a teammate over him hitting a position mate is not.

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IceBowl's picture

July 31, 2019 at 03:10 pm

Everyone take a breath.

J Jones is a very talented athlete. He wanted a trade, but now he is playing/trying. That is good for the Pack. In a trade or on the team. His play will sort that out.

I am so glad he, his mother, or his agent got him back with the Pack. Better days ahead for him.

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Coldworld's picture

July 31, 2019 at 04:04 pm

I agree that it is good that he is trying. That said, I’d hoped he would be making his case on the field and in between the whistles.

So far I haven’t heard of him making a single splash play except a tackle of a RB (D Williams) in an unpadded session and his after the play takedown of Carson today.

Lest we forget, this is a player that has never grabbed a starting spot. The point of being here was to prove that he can. This doesn’t speak to that directly, but it doesn’t help to rub the HC the wrong way and it doesn’t show the maturity or common sense that some think is his missing ingredient.

Given the amount of flack Brown got for playing hard and fired up in a real game against actual opponents and being called for taunting and a dubious hit out of bounds, the amount of slack being cut for Jones amazes me.

Ultimately, I want to see Jones prove he belongs. Perhaps this will wake him up. If he reacts adversely it’s likely over for him in the NFL. Other teams will notice this too.

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