Datone Jones was Offered an Outlet to Succeed in Green Bay; and he did just that

Big names for big defensive linemen stockpiled the 2013 NFL Draft class. Names such as Ezekiel Ansah, Sheldon Richardson and Sharrif Floyd.

Further down the list of the aforementioned first round selections waits Datone Jones, selected by the Green Bay Packers at 26th overall. A Southern California native making the trek to the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field; now, that was something to behold.

By the spot of Jones on the Packers draft board, many would assume he was set to become an All-Pro at his position. Especially coming from a coaching staff at UCLA whose ceiling is excellence and the floor — well, there is no floor. The Bruins' program, as many top-level players as they've produced over the passing decades, haven't had a defensive lineman drafted in the first round since 1979 when the Seattle Seahawks selected Manu Tuiasosopo at 18th overall.

Until Jones came along, whose college resume wasn't much to fawn over despite his personal best 19 tackles for a loss during his senior season. His 62 total tackles and 5.5 sacks were enough to reserve Jones a spot on the Second-team All-Pack-12 roster.

A lot of speculation resided with whether or not Jones would be able to learn and sufficiently carry out the duties of an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense — specifically what the Packers and defensive coordinator Dom Capers have schematically run since 2009.

Mike Mayock praised Jones' versatility in his 2013 evaluation, citing his length and ability to align his pad level properly and overpower his assignment.

"He is very long, and has good initial quickness/power, and plays with good pad level. He is versatile enough to play anywhere along the defensive line... However, his immense physical talent and extremely productive senior season should make him an early selection."

Much to the fascination of Jones, his hybrid roots were influenced early when asked about linebacker drills at the 2013 NFL Combine.

"I was begging them to do it," Jones told an NFL Media insider. "I've been working on a lot of linebacker drills, defensive end drills, defensive tackle drills. I really wanted to come out here and showcase that I can drop, that I'm good in space and that I'm athletic enough to play it."

After three subpar seasons in Green Bay and three measly starts through the first 44 games of his career, Jones was finally presented with an opportunity to convert into a hybrid utility tool for Capers.

During the offseason and training camp prior to the 2016 campaign, the Packers experimented with shifting Jones to the edge into what was dubbed as the "elephant" position. Rather than dropping into a three-point stance that defensive ends would typically contort themselves pre-snap, Jones and fellow edge-rushers on the team stand up. This presents the player on the edge with options depending on the scheme to either rush the opposing quarterback, cover the flats or drop back into coverage. He joined the short list of Packers in recent history to make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, headlined by Aaron Kampman and Mike Neal.

Jones did all three on his way to playing 53.1 percent of defensive snaps in 2016. 548 snaps were his final count, including 158 (35.7 percent) on special teams. He also started more games in 2016 than he did in his first three seasons combined including finishing the season with 22 total tackles — just barely topping the mark of 21 tackles he set for himself in 2014.

The lack of statistically arousing numbers that fill a box score have always been absent in Jones' game, which will lead many to base his 2016 campaign off of such. However, Jones may have had one of the more efficient seasons of the team's linebackers.

Consistently, Jones was overpowering the line of scrimmage and putting pressure on the opposition, blowing up run plays and doing his part when seeing snaps behind what was originally seen as a loaded outside linebackers unit between Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and Julius Peppers. Evidence of this wouldn't require much of a broad search. Jones was fined $36,464 for a roughing the passer penalty on Atlanta Falcons quarterback and league MVP Matt Ryan in the week eight meeting between the two teams. 

Jones has yet to make a tremendous leap for the Packers, and some may attribute that to his swapping of positions and responsibilities. All things considered, as Jones settles into his role, his biggest motivator of all may be a new contract to stay with the team.

With a deal that expires in March, Jones is one of the many defensive players for the Packers that is entertaining the idea of remaining with the team. He's coming off a season in which he earned $1,000,000 in base salary set with his $998,016 signing bonus earned consistently every year since 2013. It rounds out what was originally a four-year, $7.7 million dollar deal with $6.2 million guaranteed.

Jones' act in Green Bay may have expired, but a new paycheck could rejuvenate the 26-year old and offer Act II at his hybrid position.

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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 (31)

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The TKstinator's picture

February 10, 2017 at 09:28 pm

Mayock had me at "pad level".

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Razer's picture

February 11, 2017 at 09:28 am

Good one. Not sure if I am laughing or crying.

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stockholder's picture

February 10, 2017 at 10:37 pm

Good Bye Datone Jones. Just another guy that the packers will have to replace. Time to get some players from Canada. IN Capers we Trust.

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Phillthy's picture

February 10, 2017 at 11:13 pm

With the way Capers was forced to scheme this defense we really need fat run stuffers on the line and pure pass rushers on the outside. We won a championship withe Pickett, Raji, and Jenkins. 3 big bodies that will force an outside run but not known for making too much backfield penetration. Meanwhile our inside LB could float in midfield searching for the ball. While it made Hawk look subpar and not worth a high draft pick his nose for the ball is something we miss when stopping the run.

Then we got burned by running quarterbacks...

So we created these hybrid players, good at both stopping the run and pass rushing, but not great at either. Years down the road these hybrid guys have no stats and no true position to show on paper. Jones is one of those guys.

We chased the dragon on this, developed a defense to stop the gimmick QB that plagued us in the playoffs, and now we're torched by the true pocket passers of the league. Naturally though a depleted secondary doesn't help.

If we could, I'd suggest going back to this scheme. Perhaps I'm romanticizing this, but it was a simple system that worked and depended on a talented and intelligent secondary, something we had through and through with Harris, Woodson, Collins, and Williams.

I digress. Jones is in an unfortunate spot of having a career with an undefined position, a tweener as it was once called. We banked on him becoming capable of being a player to fill two spots, but unfortunately for him was incapable of filling either. Cut our losses, try again.

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The TKstinator's picture

February 11, 2017 at 06:57 am

I don't think Jenkins was similar to Pickett and Raji.

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Phillthy's picture

February 11, 2017 at 07:54 am

You're correct Jenkins had more pass rush ability, but was still a big body.

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stockholder's picture

February 11, 2017 at 08:14 am

I still would try and sign Jones. I don't think he's the bust everyone says. I still think if he was in the 4-3-4, he would be awesome. Everyone said he had what it takes, when he was a rookie. Ankle injury's slowed him. And now we think he's the next Perry. But again were going to waste this guy's talent, trying to make him into something he's not. If someone else signs him, their going to get a good young player.

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Razer's picture

February 11, 2017 at 09:46 am

Good assessment Phillthy. I think that drafting and remapping these players has been a problem for our defense. Datone Jones may have been a stud as a DE in a 4-3 but not in our system. I also think that our scheme doesn't fit the players that we have nor the players available to us when we draft. To that end, I think that we need to move on from a Capers defense and into a defense that can be manned more easily. Turning your draft picks into projects or working with misaligned talent is giving us very poor results.

Datone Jones has done very little in 4 years. I don't think that it is from lack of effort as much as it is from miscasting. I wouldn't resign him because he doesn't fit and because he has Erik Walden disease - stupid penalty syndrome.

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 12, 2017 at 05:48 am

Walden had 11 sacks this past season.

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MarkinMadison's picture

February 11, 2017 at 03:03 am

If memory serves, Kampman wanted no part of the transition, was around for one year of it, and was injured for most of that year.

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Hematite's picture

February 11, 2017 at 06:24 am

Just another in a lineup of Thompson's hohum defensive picks.
In my opinion he's not worth re-signing.

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packerbackerjim's picture

February 11, 2017 at 06:33 am

If he couldn't produce much in his contract year, I wouldn't expect much improvement after signing a new contract. Say goodbye and wish him well.

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Savage57's picture

February 11, 2017 at 09:17 am

Double his snaps, get the same production = goodbye, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Someone is going to throw too much money at this guy.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

February 11, 2017 at 08:31 am

If I was Jones the only way I'd resign with the Packers is if it was for significantly more money. For a player with his body type, I'd get out.

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Lphill's picture

February 11, 2017 at 08:38 am

No loss if they don't re sign him , not difficult to fill his shoes, another out of position experiment by TT , why can't we draft players that actually play the position. ?

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Razer's picture

February 11, 2017 at 09:49 am

Exactly. Can you really find the guys to play this Capers defense? Ted may be swimming against the tide with this scheme.

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 12, 2017 at 06:08 am

"another out of position experiment by TT, why can't we draft players that actually play the position.?".

Let's examine the illogic of this opinion, as it has permeated for years. In order to subscribe to this opinion, one has to believe that TT purposefully drafts players that cannot play the position that he drafts them for. In other words, one would have to believe that TT is purposefully sabotaging his own team. Does anyone really believe that? If so, I've got some of that beachfront Arizona property for sale that everyone talks about.

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Since'61's picture

February 11, 2017 at 08:42 am

My guess here is that Jones will not get any takers in FA and the Packers will re-sign him to a one year prove it deal. I would prefer for the Packers to move on but TT will not be able to resist keeping one of "his" guys at a bargain basement price. So we are probably in for another season of mediocre play from Jones. Thanks, Since '61

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mrtundra's picture

February 11, 2017 at 08:47 am

So, the recent talk of TT going into FA this year meant that he will resign GB's FAs? Here we go again.

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Mags's picture

February 11, 2017 at 09:34 am

The one guy that the Packers need to move on from. Just a jag for a first round pick. One of TT questionable defensive picks lately.

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Rossonero's picture

February 11, 2017 at 09:51 am

I'd hope for a 1 year prove it deal for Jones. After all, Nick Perry finally blossomed after his 4th season. I'd want to give Jones one more shot in the elephant position. Although Perry had injuries, his 1st round grade was as a DE not as an OLB.

Once we let Perry put his hand in the dirt again, he showed us why he earned that 1st round grade. Sometimes the Packers ask guys to play out of their collegiate position or move them around. Jones has been a disappointment, but given his youth, he'd be far cheaper to keep than Peppers.

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Ferrari Driver's picture

February 11, 2017 at 10:00 am

I look at Jones as simply a body who fills a position on the team which is similar to what most teams are comprised.

Those type of players are needed and should be on the lower end of the pay scale.

It's the "difference makers" that determine who will win division championships and play in the post season. These are the franchise quarterbacks, sack leaders who disrupt the passing game of the opposition, and shut down corners who allow a defense to play a 7-man box.

Bottom line: Jones is worth signing, but certainly now for big bucks.

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jyros's picture

February 11, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Jones is still valuable to GB and can be re-signed at
a reasonable price. He knows the system and w/
Perry rounding into form, Jones is needed while
Fackrell and others develope. He also flashed some
ball handling skills fielding the on-side kick in the Atlanta game. I hope he's back in Green and Gold.

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Point-Packer's picture

February 12, 2017 at 01:09 am

Ball handling skills? Christ. When you have to defend on OLBs play by mentioning his ball handling skills, then he surely is "just another guy". Of which, Datone Jones is and forever will be in the NFL.

Hated that pick when Ted made it, like it less now. Bust!

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jyros's picture

February 11, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Jones is still valuable to GB and can be re-signed at
a reasonable price. He knows the system and w/
Perry rounding into form, Jones is needed while
Fackrell and others develope. He also flashed some
ball handling skills fielding the on-side kick in the Atlanta game. I hope he's back in Green and Gold.

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fthisJack's picture

February 11, 2017 at 02:54 pm

Jones played well enough to keep considering Peppers probably won't be back. edge rushers don't grow on trees and even if you draft one....doesn't mean they will come in and light the world on fire. Also, Perry isn't signed yet and its not guaranteed he'll be back. We just have to see how this plays out in FA.

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Point-Packer's picture

February 12, 2017 at 01:06 am

Bust.

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 12, 2017 at 06:18 am

I'm convinced that some posters don't actually watch the games, or only follow the ball if they do watch. If one actually watches the interior line play during a game, one would have noticed that Datone played quite well this year. Things like penetration on run plays, pressuring the pocket, and holding the edge don't show up on stat sheets.

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RodFlash's picture

February 12, 2017 at 03:36 pm

You're absolutely right. That's what bugs me the most about a lot of posters...they really have no clue about football unless it's Madden. Jones actually had a very good & consistant season. The guys only 26 and I believe he'll be relatively cheap. Perry is the wild card because he's gonna cost some $$jing. I don't like Ted but he'll probably let Jones test the market, but will he pay Perry? I don't trust Ted at all and wish he'd hit the road.

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edddowling's picture

February 12, 2017 at 07:18 pm

Perry finally showed what he is capable of and needs to be signed, period. Cook brings a dimension to this offense that is rare and he needs to be signed. Hyde is a keeper and so is Lacy (on a prove-it contract only).

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al bundy's picture

February 13, 2017 at 04:34 pm

I dont care if datone or lacy stay on a one year show me deal fine. Ihave no idea why anyone would want datone. They are not going to come out the woodwork for him, ditto fat ass bj raji.

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