Packers' GM: Josh Jones 'trending in the right direction'

Brian Gutekunst believes the former second-round pick can continue his ascension entering his third season.

-- Don't forget about Josh Jones.

When discussing the Green Bay Packers' safety position -- and all of its deficiencies -- it's easy to disregard the 2017 second-round pick. But in the defense of those guilty of such a practice, he hasn't necessarily provided a reason to remember him yet, either.

"He's trending in the right direction," General manager Brian Gutekunst said at the annual league meetings this week, according to The Athletic's Michael Cohen. "This will be a big year for him."

The Packers have played Jones in various positions, but he has yet to make the impact they've been hoping for. At 6-2, 220 pounds, Jones sports the robust build required to serve as a hybrid linebacker, which is where he's shown to be the most capable.

It's worth noting that Jones hasn't had the consistency of the same defensive coordinator for more than a season, as his rookie season was also Dom Capers' last year at the post. In 2018 under Mike Pettine, Jones didn't see much of a position change. However, his ability to play in the teeth of the defensive front as a box safety still flashed as an area where he's better suited.

Newly-acquired Adrian Amos, Raven Greene, Tray Matthews and Jason Thompson are the only other safeties on the Packers' roster. Of the bunch, only Amos and Greene are capable of playing free safety, but it's likely the Packers will keep Amos as a strong safety and allow Jones to play in the box full-time.

Many have inquired about swapping second-year cornerback Josh Jackson to free safety, which will allow him to hone in on his ball skills and play at his ideal speed. But it's likely the Packers will allow him to fail as a cornerback project first before entertaining that idea.

If anything is for certain, there isn't a position change in Jones' future. Entering his third season, the Packers may still be lacking a deep, centerfield safety, but Jones wouldn't be the answer to their dilemma.

"We're certainly going to need him. I thought he had some really good snaps toward the end of last year after he started playing more. It's like a lot of young players, they just need to play.

"Very few of these guys come in their first year and really see it and understand it. All these guys are growing. Josh is the same way."

Jones has played in 29 of a possible 32 games in his career to this point, tallying seven defended passes and three sacks, along with one career interception. His best performance to date was against the Cincinnati Bengals in his rookie year in which he recorded a pair of sacks and a career-high 11 solo tackles.

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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 (50)

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dblbogey's picture

March 26, 2019 at 06:27 pm

I remember his first pre-season games. He looked like a future all-pro.

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mamasboy's picture

March 26, 2019 at 06:33 pm

Goes to show you never can tell!

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Johnblood27's picture

March 26, 2019 at 10:24 pm

iT WAS A TEENAGE WEDDING AND THE OLD FOLKS WISHED THEM WELL

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Coldworld's picture

March 27, 2019 at 07:13 am

I think Jones was then buried in playbooks for multiple positions. He is hugely athletic but that’s no help if you aren’t at a point where the body is faster than the brain. In essence I think we have held him back. Play him at one position until he masters it. We saw flashes at ILB.

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The TKstinator's picture

March 27, 2019 at 08:37 pm

Concur.

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DragonSilk's picture

March 26, 2019 at 06:30 pm

Second year with Pettine third year in the league. If he doesn't step up this year he probably never will.

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Bure9620's picture

March 26, 2019 at 07:25 pm

I was at the the Carolina game 2 years ago and watched Jones in coverage and he was just dreadful.
Remember the walk in TD for Olson? But I still maintain he can be effective in the box, particularly when blitzing, I think Jones puts it together this year. Pettine loves that 3 safety look as a LB (essentially a 2-4-5) morphes to a 2-5-4. I still like Jones, he's likely a late bloomer. He is just too big and athletic to give up on. Pettine with utilize him properly. I am just not sure he will ever be an every down player. He could be a liability in a base look.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 26, 2019 at 10:29 pm

He has to learn to study better and know his positioning, know his angles and reads. He is a 4.4 guy with all the measureables. Just no instincts or sense of the play unfolding.

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DragonSilk's picture

March 27, 2019 at 08:07 am

If he's dreadful in coverage then offenses will key in on that. He needs to raise that part of his game to at least average.

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CoachJV's picture

March 26, 2019 at 07:20 pm

This year will show what JJ is worth. He will either step up and be a solid contributor, or he will prove to be a "speller".

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EddieLeeIvory's picture

March 26, 2019 at 07:28 pm

I hope for the best from this athlete. But "trending in the right direction" isn't a huge ringing endorsement.

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sonomaca's picture

March 27, 2019 at 06:21 am

The public perception seems to be that he’s not terribly bright, nor “instinctual.” It’s my impression that the Packers favor very intelligent players, such as Kenny Clark, Aaron Rodgers, and Blake Martinez.

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Coldworld's picture

March 27, 2019 at 07:21 am

Which MM did. However it is just another facet of the delusion that a player must simply defeat the opposition regardless of the player’s strengths or weaknesses.

Some players can handle it, though even the most acute probably take longer to be good at any of them. Others simply can’t and you suppress their potential and weaken your team.

It’s not realistic to expect 50 plus football smart players. It’s not realistic to assume that every player has the capabilities to perform multiple roles. That’s why those that can have value even if not a star at any. Yet that was the MM mantra. We need to use our players in ways that include and account for their abilities, physical and mental and turn the page on this folly.

Jones would be one of the probable beneficiaries, but there are and will be others.

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sonomaca's picture

March 27, 2019 at 07:47 am

Well, we know the Pack have athletic thresholds. Why not intelligence thresholds? I think there must be a way to judge on-field intelligence better than the Wonderlic. I think there’s a opportunity to develop a VR simulation where player decision making and “mental processing” can be quantified.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 27, 2019 at 01:07 pm

If you cannot think and recognize fast and learn different concepts, you won't last long in theis league. Belichick always takes the smarter player over a top athlete if that is the dividing line.

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The TKstinator's picture

March 27, 2019 at 08:39 pm

Agree. It’s split second timing that is the difference between being in position or out of position.

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Packer Dave's picture

March 26, 2019 at 08:19 pm

He should just move to ILB full time. He and Burkes can rotate as our cover guys and for whatever blitz packages Pettine concocts. I liked the nasty Morrison gave on run downs, but as it stands we're kind of light here now that Ryan is gone too.

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arthurl's picture

March 26, 2019 at 08:23 pm

As noted this is probably his last opportunity to show he’s a starter with the Pack. Odds aren’t in his favor as he’s been given every chance with this team and hasn’t answered the bell. Will probably be another wasted pick.

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Rossonero's picture

March 26, 2019 at 08:47 pm

To be fair, after the 2017 season, McCarthy himself admitted that they "probably tried to do too much with him [Jones] last year."

They had him near the line of scrimmage, then in the Nitro packages as an ILB, then when injuries hit, he moved to safety with bad results. I think it was information overload for a rookie, but we had no depth either.

Going into 2018, McCarthy said they wanted to reduce his responsibilities so he wouldn't get overwhelmed. Pettine echoed this at his initial press conference -- that you need to keep players within a comfort zone.

However, we all know how 2018 went -- started off with an ankle injury, then he was buried behind....Kentrell freaking Brice of all people. Not a good sign when you can't unseat an undrafted free agent who got torched deep on a near weekly basis.

I feel like the Patriots do a great job of keeping players in their comfort zones. You hear Belichick all the time say, "do your job." He keeps his players assignment-focused and within a certain comfort zone (the extent injuries allow of course).

Regardless, this is a make or break year for Jones and Kevin King. Jones is not a Gutekunst draft pick, nor is King. These are the last remnants of Ted's drafting, so it's put up or shut up time now.

Considering Jones' physical gifts, I really hope he puts it all together in 2019. His career depends on it.

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CoachJV's picture

March 26, 2019 at 09:31 pm

In response to being a make-or-break year for King... I totally agree!!!

I've personally already written King off as the Secondary version of Justin Harrell... physically gifted but can't play because he's hurt all the time. (Well maybe King is not THAT bad... but you get my point) And now we don't have Breeland either... I am worried about our Secondary... BIG TIME! It's been a bane for years. I hope Gute has a trick up his sleeve for the CB position.

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sonomaca's picture

March 27, 2019 at 06:31 am

Totally with you. No obvious answers in the draft. Chatter that Thornhill may be an interesting option, an athletic marvel who could play FS or corner. Might end up in mid-first round.

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Rossonero's picture

March 27, 2019 at 12:48 pm

Ehh I wouldn't go as far with the King analogy. Justin Harrell was drafted much higher than King was and had a LOT more hype. People were talking about him like the 2nd coming of Reggie White (Tennessee connection).

King wasn't even a 1st rounder, but obviously he was top pick in 2017. King may need to bulk up a little. He wasn't injury prone in college, but perhaps the shift to the NFL game vs. bigger bodies has exposed his lanky frame more than he thought.

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CoachJV's picture

March 28, 2019 at 05:56 pm

Actually, King WAS injury prone in college and had his bad shoulder there. He was a freshman safety at Washington the first time his left shoulder popped out of its socket.
"He rehabbed after that first injury, which required surgery to repair his labrum, only to return and have another dislocation against Oregon State."

Then, he had problems in his final college season... then his rookie season with us... and then his 2nd season with us.

So yeah... he's an injury bust and will not make it through 2019.

Edit: Here's a link to an article by our very own Aaron Nagler - packersnews.com/story/sports/nfl/packers/2017/12/08/persistent-shoulder-injuries-plague-packers-rookie-cb-kevin-king/936148001

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SterlingSharpe's picture

March 28, 2019 at 09:14 pm

King is very brittle, fragile. I am done holding out hope for this string bean.
They don't like links here at CTV.

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CoachJV's picture

March 28, 2019 at 09:42 pm

Haha check it out... we both have Sharpe in our avatar pics. Dude was dominant. Big, strong receiver before being a big strong receiver was cool.

Too bad about the neck... I would have loved to see him have a long career.

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iam1955cudakid's picture

March 26, 2019 at 09:03 pm

This is the year Josh comes around .

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Spock's picture

March 27, 2019 at 07:23 am

I hope you are right (crosses fingers)!

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Don Guske's picture

March 26, 2019 at 09:37 pm

Ted Thomson was the worst GM in the league. His drafting was pathetic!

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FLPackfan's picture

March 27, 2019 at 08:24 am

He fell off towards the end, but t say worst in the league while having a playoff team year after year while picking at the end of the order every year. No where near the worst, but it was time for the change, and has been said it unfortunately takes a few years to identify the issue and now they have to rebuild to a point. I do like the aggressiveness in Gute in doing that.

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porupack's picture

March 27, 2019 at 11:32 am

I gave up on TT somewhere around 2015.
But we've moved on, so what's the use in continually bashing TT. Get over it.
There's some other bad ones too....call Cleveland, Miami, Detroit area codes to find some friends with similar sentiment as you.

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SterlingSharpe's picture

March 28, 2019 at 09:15 pm

For his final couples years, he was certainly bottom-ten at best.

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PatrickGB's picture

March 26, 2019 at 09:49 pm

I think that he is such a tweener that they did not know how to best use him. But he sure is not a good deep safety. The same thing happened to him in college when he changed positions. He needs to learn one position well before he moves around. Some players can do everything. Maybe he is not one of them.

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Bryan Chisholm's picture

March 26, 2019 at 09:57 pm

I don't think we see a major jump from him, but I do believe he proves he belongs and can be serviceable.

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albert999's picture

March 26, 2019 at 10:01 pm

Greedy Willams at 44

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marpag1's picture

March 27, 2019 at 05:08 am

~~ Yup. Either him or Nick Bosa.

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CoachJV's picture

March 27, 2019 at 06:47 am

Yup

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stockholder's picture

March 26, 2019 at 10:17 pm

Trade him.

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Swisch's picture

March 26, 2019 at 10:19 pm

I don't know if we have any, and who they may be, but I hope we start keeping our Casey Haywards and Micah Hydes.
From what I understand, even Damarious Randall started to play well with the Browns last season at safety.
This is a new era for the Packers, and a fresh start. Let's hope the coaches find the best ways to maximize our players tactically and motivationally; and that our players come in ready to seize a great new opportunity to establish themselves in the NFL, and even excel.
Rooting and praying for you, Josh!

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RCPackerFan's picture

March 27, 2019 at 07:40 am

My hope is that Pettine figures out how to best use Jones. Even if it isn't in a starting role. If he can just find a role for him and a way to get the most out of him while limiting his weaknesses, that will be a big win.

Going into his 3rd year and 2nd year in the scheme also might mean he takes a big jump.
A lot of players take a couple of years to learn the system. Jones might be a candidate to break out, especially if he doesn't think about what he has to do and just does what he has to do.

Regardless, I still draft a safety high. We need play makers. Safety can be a play making position.

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Guam's picture

March 27, 2019 at 08:06 am

Saying a third year player is "trending in the right direction" is damning with faint praise if I have ever heard it. The Packers have Amos and Williams (if he doesn't move back to CB with Breeland gone) and three question marks (Jones, Greene and Campbell) at safety. Please draft a safety at #30 or #44.

Since we also need another ILB, maybe Jones could fill that role.

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MarkinMadison's picture

March 27, 2019 at 08:06 am

Hopefully he has been studying his @$$ off this off-season. He was the most exciting player in that pre-season, and the athletic numbers are just crazy. I hope he pulls it together this year, or we might see him go someplace else and put it together there.

King is not Justin Harrell. King already has more games played, and far more games started, than Harrell did for his entire career.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 27, 2019 at 09:07 am

I think he's a weakside linebacker in a 4-3 defense. Unless his coverage improves, we can't play him at safety because teams will spread us out and isolate him in coverage.

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4thand1's picture

March 27, 2019 at 10:29 am

Here's another example of Capers and the Packers drafting a guy and not knowing what to do with him. 1st year was a wasted year and year 2 was learning all over again. Year 3, it is time.

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porupack's picture

March 27, 2019 at 11:41 am

<<Here's another example of Capers and the Packers drafting a guy and not knowing what to do with him>>

q for 4thand1

Are you indicting the GM or Pettine? Isn't drafting BPA a matter of finding players, regardless of how you intend to use them? And in true BPA, you don't even consider how to use them. You are only concerned with who is best, which includes athleticism and college production.

So, isn't that the weakness of BPA, that you don't look for best fitting players, you look for best players and figure out how to use them after the draft? If that is true, then the fault lies on Pettine for not knowing how to use him, not on the GM for drafting an athletic safety.

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4thand1's picture

March 28, 2019 at 07:08 am

I'm saying it seems the Packers experiment too much.

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Drkimball's picture

March 27, 2019 at 03:04 pm

I suspect Tramon will be the starting deep FS this year. He proved last year he still has the range and is a willing tackler when it matters. Maybe he hops down to the slot in Nickel/Dime situations and someone like Raven Greene steps in deep. Get your best guys on the field and I still believe 38 is in that mix.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 27, 2019 at 09:06 pm

The starting FS will come out of round one or two.

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Buschmen's picture

March 27, 2019 at 09:27 pm

Tre Boston. Get it done, Gute,

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Tabattttt's picture

March 28, 2019 at 08:54 am

I like jj. It seems just like damarius randall, micah hyde, casey Hayward etc. Packers arent playing to his strengths.

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LambeauPlain's picture

March 28, 2019 at 10:18 am

MM had his favorites. Going into the 2018 season he said Brice was his guy at S...going about his business the right way.

After Brice had a few rough games to start the season, MM said Brice was remaining as starting Safety.

I think MM told Pettine to keep Brice and HHCD as starters and Jones got buried in the depth chart and lost snaps during his very important sophomore season.

I think JJ still has a big upside.

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