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If Barnett Leaves, Does Jones Move Inside?

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If Barnett Leaves, Does Jones Move Inside?

Dan Arkush of Pro Football Weekly has this little nugget buried at the end of a post about the right outside linebacker spot being wide open for competition heading into the 2011 season.

Jones and Walden are more athletic and better at dropping into coverage than Zombo, but Zombo is a lot stouter at the point of attack and looks like he will continue to improve as a pass rusher. Don't rule out Jones moving inside should Nick Barnett leave — a possibility head coach Mike McCarthy mentioned to team insiders at the NFL Scouting Combine.

I must have missed this either at the podium or out in the hallway - although he could have said it to Dan or one of the PFW guys at a different time in Indy.

It's an intriguing idea. Jones showed a surprising ability to take on blocks his rookie year, something that would help him if he was being asked to take on the interior lineman he'd end up taking on at inside linebacker. Jones is actually a tad bigger than Barnett (Jones is listed at 6'3", 242; Barnett is listed at 6'2", 236) though I'm not sure Jones is as athletic. The key would be how Jones would handle the pounding on the inside and my hunch is that he could handle it.

Of course, none of this comes into play unless the Packers actually move on from Barnett, which I am not sure is a foregone conclusion. It sounds like he wants to remain a Packer. He would most likely need to take a paycut to do so. He is slated to make $5.5 million in 2011 and $6 million in 2012 (along with roster and workout bonuses). After the Packers extended Desmond Bishop and re-signed A.J. Hawk to what is essentially starters money, it's hard to believe they would keep Barnett around at his current numbers, provided the next CBA reinstates a salary cap system.

Obviously, a lot needs to play out. But McCarthy and the Packers are clearly looking at every scenario and possibility in regards to their linebacking corps.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (23) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

PackersRS's picture

It's an interesting move, if concreted. Sure beats having Wilhelm and Chillar in there.

As for athleticism, Jones' pro-day numbers indicate as much:
1.59 10 yard split, 6.75 3 cone drill, 4.21 20 shuttle. All better numbers than any OLB prospect in this class other than Von Miller, but Jones weighted 232lbs.

Barnett had:
1.65 10 yard, 7.0 3 cone, 4.08 short shuttle. Weighting 236.

I see very similar athleticism, with Jones having a slight edge in his first step and lateral agility, while Barnett is the most fluid.

jeremy's picture

Jones big weakness is holding the edge on running plays. He would almost never be the contain guy inside. It sounds like a good idea to try it out.

ZaphodBeeblebrox's picture

The real variable on Barnett's future is not his salary, but Brandon Chillar's shoulder injuries. McCarthy has expressed concern more than once about Chillar's ability to come back, since IIRC this is not his first shoulder injury or surgery. Don't see the Packers making a move with Barnett until Chillar's medical situation is better-known. I could still see the Packers bringing both to camp and making them compete - since salaries are not guaranteed until the first week of the season, except in the case of a training camp/pre-season injury...

Cole's picture

Chillar is awful. The only play I've ever seen him make was where he jumped over the guy for the sack.

He and Poppinga are done. I'd love to see Jones get a shot inside. That will clear some room to draft an OLB to compete with Zombo and Walden.

Ken at UWM's picture

I agree. Always thought his reputation of a coverage ace was overblown. The Rams beat him for 2 TD in 2009. That alone should send you to the CFL and/or Detroit.

Ken at UWM's picture

I agree, Zaphod. There is a chance BOTH Barnett and Chillar are gone. Probably more likely than both returning.

If we go OLB in the first round, moving Jones inside is a very real possibility.

Jmac34's picture

This makes sense to because if I remember correctly, Jones' pass coverage was one of his biggest assets

WoodyG's picture

Drafting Reed, Ayers or Houston at #32 would certainly open up the idea of moving Jones inside ..... Even if TT uses #32 for the DL or OL, there still may be an OLB that TT likes in rds. 2 or 3 .....

Sounds like Barnett has finally realized that his 'distractions' prior to the SB were not condusive to making $5.5 mil. in 2011 ...... I'm not sure any team will want to pick him up for $5.5 mil. in a trade & he sure isn't going to be paid that amount to be a BU in GB ......

Move Jones inside & draft an ILB prospect in rounds 4 or later ...... Dump both Barnett & Chillar ......

supersoul's picture

I just want to point out that Zombo, arguably is more athletic than Jones. While Jones beats him in the 3 cone and 20 yard (I am throwing out the 40 yard time), Zombo wins at the vertical and broad. Considering all of their times/measures were done with Zombo weighing 22 lbs. more than Jones, you can see why he was so successful last year as an UDFA.

Taking all of that in to consideration, I'd like to see a competition between the two for the job. They are both good players with a lot of upside. If we don't get Houston in the first, I wouldn't be surprised to see us stand pat at OLB.

Jon's picture

I would hate to see Barnett gone.. he is a class guy and really wants to retire as a Packer.. unfortunately this is a business and there are only so many slots

WoodyG's picture

Retire as a Packer? ..... All he's doing is trying to salvage the remaining 2 years of his contract as is (5.5 mil & 6 mil) .......

I don't believe "Class guy" has ever been in Barnett's 'character description'......

Nerdmann's picture

Barnett hurt himself by creating a distraction before the Superbowl. Jones is also much younger.
Jones's problem is he needs to prove he can stay healthy. Then we can talk about moving him inside, where he's only gonna take even more hits than he's been taking. Zombo and Walden are very good backups and either one of them could blossom in year two.
The only way Poppinga hangs around is if he suddenly develops punt returning ability.

Nononsense's picture

I, like most fans assumed Barnett would oppose a pay cut and or reduction in play time but it doesn't sound that way.

If hes happy to stay under those circumstances than TT would be crazy to get rid of him unless someone offers good value for him in a trade.

I myself wouldn't mind seeing what he looks like at ROLB in a pass rushing role. Give him a good long look in that role during TC and see how he does. I know they talked about trying him there before but they never acually did, they tried Chillar but not Barnett to my knowledge.

BubbaOne's picture

Barnett is NOT a 3-4 OLB...too light.

Nononsense's picture

Barnett is NOT a 3-4 OLB…too light.

Never said he was. Thats why I said "in a pass rushing role". You know, in obvious passing situations where his one job is to rush the QB.

Hes gonna be a backup no matter what, I was just thinking of ways to use him instead of just paying him to ride the pine sitting behind Bishop and Hawk.

PackersRS's picture

Barnett, according to PFF, was our best pass rushing ILB when healthy.
But is he a better pass rusher than Walden, Zombo and Jones? Specially rushing from the outside, and not the inside, taking on the LT?
I'm not sure.

BubbaOne's picture

One aspect not talked about...

WHAT IF the suggestion of moving Jones inside is more about TT/MM being happy w/ Walden/Zombo at OLB? I read somewhere the Packers were very happy w/ how Walden played last year.

AND WHAT IF Barnett takes a pay cut AND Jones moves inside as well...along w/ Hawk and Bishop...nice package at ILB.

Maybe Jones would be a backup at both ILB and OLB. Versatility, a word the Packer brass likes.

Nerdmann's picture

Barnett can talk all he wants about being willing to compete for the position. But when he loses, he's gonna be a little bitch.

Oppy's picture

Brad Jones has arguably more game experience playing a role with 3-4 OLB- type responsibilities (due to his varied use in college) than any other LB on the roster save perhaps Clay Matthews who was also used in many different roles in college his senior year, from the perspective of rush, playing run, and dropping back from various angles.

I don't see exactly why they'd want to move Jones inside, he was very promising at OLB in his rookie season. I don't agree with the previous poster who said his weakness was anchoring the run; the media at large was questioning his ability because he was on the light side for the position his rookie year, but he surprised when he was more than adequate setting the edge. People talked about his lack of rush, but he quietly performed well in that area too.

I don't think Jones is a better option at Buck/Mack than at OLB; but it may just be a case of he's a better option as a back up at Buck/Mack than Zombo/Walden. Zombo may be a bit more stout in the Run game, and Walden may be more agile and a better rush man, but neither are as level across the spectrum as Jones.

Clearly, I'm no Mike McCarthy, but this seems a little baffling to me. Perhaps it's more rah-rah to fire up the players and create competition to ensure these kids are working hard over the lock out.

NickGBP's picture

If McCarthy's talking about it it's only because Capers has been considering it.

PackersRS's picture

That isn't an indicament of anything. We all know that Capers is a crazy cook who thinks of millions of new defensive formations per second.

You can bet your ass that he has already thought of Raji dropping in cov... And of Sam Shields as a nickel rush... And Jenkins as an Outside lineb... Well, nevermind. You get the picture. Capers considers anything but putting Arod as a nose tackle.
/prays Capers doesn't see this.

asshalo's picture

Very interesting thought. I wonder what the coaches think of Robert Francois. Though I wonder if he'll even be on the team next year after people come off IR and draft picks are signed. Depends if they draft an ILB too.

ZUB's picture

I think you can't have too many good LBs in a 3/4 defense.

I think Jone's biggest challenge is his availablity issue. He is a good football player, Walden and Zombo proved themselves last year, leaving Jones a year behind at the OLB position.

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