Salad days of Josh Jones

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In 2016, the Green Bay Packers surrendered the second most passing yards (4,308) in the NFL. For context, that checks out to 269 yards per game, roughly the same yardage that Peyton Manning averaged over his career (270). It goes without saying that those are squalid numbers, and then general manager Ted Thompson knew he had to address the defensive backfield in the upcoming draft. Cornerback Sam Shields had just been waived by the team, after suffering a series of concussions. Prototype defensive back Micah Hyde had just latched on with the Buffalo Bills on a five-year deal, and the move justified which unit the Green Bay front office would have to renovate first.

After trading out of the 29th pick in the first round, at the top of the second, the Packers addressed the corner position, snagging Kevin King out of Washington. Later that round, the pronounced athleticism of Josh Jones, a safety from North Carolina State, struck the Pack. It seemed as if the team had replaced Shields and Hyde with ease. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Jones had a 4.41 time, with an extraordinary leaping ability.

At the top of last summer’s training camp, Jones garnered attention for lighting up rookie receiver Malachi Dupree, but also was lauded by defensive stalwart, Mike Daniels, because of the safety’s signs of leadership and seriousness.

This past season, Jones was approbated after a stellar, two-sack performance during Week 3’s affair with the Cincinnati Bengals, a game in which Jones also accumulated 12 tackles playing a starting linebacker role. The robust sub-package ‘backer replaced Morgan Burnett in the Packer’s Nitro nickel-package role, forcing Burnett to play slot corner. Jones wouldn’t go on to start another game until week 9 against Detroit, with Burnett sidelined, which resulted in a loss. Still, with eight tackles, and his not missing a single snap, he showed his tenacity as a hybrid player, one with peak stamina. Weeks later, against a winless Cleveland Browns’ squad that almost upset Green Bay, Jones clinched a victory with an interception in overtime. He finished his season with 71 tackles in only seven starts.

After the regular season ended, the Pack rose eight positions, to 23, in total pass defense, yielding 3,789 yards. Though that number is improving, the team still gave up 7.4 yards per pass attempt to their opponents, which shows how inefficient the secondary has been in allowing big plays. Jones still likes to bite on plays, and lose assignments in the process, as he needs to improve his coverage skills. He gets trigger happy with his athleticism physicality, meaning that he’s akin to a pro-baseball slugger who can take the ball out of the park but also can strike out at a high clip.

Jones definitely showed himself as a force, and though he isn’t fully responsible for the team being harder on quarterbacks, he’s as promising as anyone on this team. With Burnett slated to hit free agency in a matter of months, Jones may very well be situated next to free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the defensive backfield for the foreseeable future. If Packers’ fans can be patient for Jones, as he, himself, becomes more patient on unfolding play calls and reading the opposing quarterback, then there should be no worries about his game.

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