Competitive, prepared, physical, fast, and smart. Those are just a few of many words one could use to describe Packers rookie safety Josh Jones. The rookie from North Carolina State brings something with him, a unique skill set that the Packers look for in a defensive back. He is a hybrid player. He is instinctive, agile, and is as tough as nails. After the Packers lost Micah Hyde on a 5-year, $32.5 million ($14 million guaranteed), they were in need of a guy to step up and replace him. Micah Hyde was the hybrid of the Packer’s defense. Micah Hyde came out of the University of Iowa, bringing with him the technical skills that an NFL player needs to be successful. Hyde had the versatility to switch positions, and the athleticism to make an impact at both. Hyde’s bigger build gives him a size advantage against taller receivers and bigger tight ends. Hyde was able to cover the entire field for the Packers while playing safety, yet able to jam at the line of scrimmage and cause the receiver to lose balance. Josh Jones has the same set of skills Micah Hyde had coming out of Iowa. Jones looks as if he is better suited for the Packers defense than Micah Hyde did when he came in his rookie year.
Josh Jones is what the Packers need, he is what Dom Capers searches for in a defensive back. To simply describe Josh Jones in a few sentences, Daniel Jeremiah, a former NFL Scout on NFL.com (http://www.nfl.com/draft/2017/profiles/josh-jones?id=2558119) said: “Josh Jones is somebody that can play some corner and can also play safety. He tested extremely well. He’s another one that will hit you. He’s a real physical football player. … He’s a tremendous athlete and the Packers love cross-training guys, corners, and safeties. Here’s another one.” Jeremiah nailed the quote with the part that reads “…the Packers love cross-training guys”. This is what makes the Packers defense run. Dom Capers and his Packer’s defense love mismatches. If the Packers can have as many options as possible, and as many players available at as many positions as possible, it gives the defense more options with mismatches. Cross training players, making them adapt to a new position, or multiple positions is something that has been done for years. Micah Hyde played multiple positions in the secondary, Julius Peppers (who played on the defensive line with the Bears) adapted as a linebacker in the Dom Capers 3-4 defense, and now again with Josh Jones playing inside linebacker, and even Ty Montgomery, from wide receiver to running back.
Like Dom Capers’ NASCAR package that he released in 2014 as a part of the linebacker rotation, he has come up with a new scheme, or package. Nitro. It allows for three defensive backs on the field. This could put Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett, and Josh Jones on the field all at the same time. This may call for two safeties (could be Morgan and Clinton-Dix) and a linebacker (Jones) on the field, one of the three playing linebacker. Morgan Burnett could and has played linebacker for the Packers in the past, but it wasn’t entirely ideal. In today’s strategic game of football, the defense itself needs to adjust, adapt, or even morph into something new, possibly every series. The more complex the defense looks to the offense, the better. It is all about disguising the defense in plain sight. This is what Josh Jones could help the Packers do. Dom Capers has become a master at disguising defenses.
To make things more interesting, Josh Jones isn’t your average size for a defensive back. At 6’1”, 220lbs, Josh Jones is larger than most of the Packers’ defensive backs. Quinten Rollins is 5’11”, 195lbs. Damarious Randall is also 5’11”, 195lbs. Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has a similar build to Josh Jones, at 6’1”, 208lbs. Ha Ha is most likely going to be Josh Jones’ “teacher”, showing him the ropes in the secondary. Ha Ha has shown that his height and physical size can be used as an advantage. Micah Hyde, is 6’0”, 197lbs, a bit smaller than Josh Jones. Micah Hyde was his own type of hybrid. Playing safety, cornerback (in the slot and on the perimeter) was what he did best. Hyde found his way onto the team through special teams. This included returning punts (and scoring a few touchdowns, three to be exact) and proving that he had a spot on this team. Like every player, Jones is going to have do to the same. If Jones wants to make the 53-man roster, he may have to prove himself through special teams first.
Being a second round pick out of NC State, Jones was supposed to be overlooked. He did not receive all ACC honors, and was not a name that was known coming out of the ACC. With 43 total players being drafted out of the ACC (second highest for any conference), and three from NC State, Josh Jones was overshadowed. 60 players went before Jones in the draft, giving many players like him a chip on his shoulder. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has nothing but praise for Jones, from packersnews.com (http://www.packersnews.com/story/sports/nfl/packers/2017/08/01/nitro-package-brings-explosive-element-packers-defense/529656001/), stating: “As a rookie he reminds me a lot of myself,” Clinton-Dix said. “A guy that just wants to fly around make plays. You know he kind of gets his head stuck on making mistakes instead of just playing fast, which I did a lot, so I really see a lot of myself in him a lot as a rookie.” It is extremely early in Josh Jones’ professional career. His rookie year shouldn’t even be a measure of what kind of career he will have with the Packers. What will determine his legacy in Green Bay is how he faces adversity, and if he is willing to put in the commitment to being the best player that he can possibly become.
Last year was a letdown for the Packer’s secondary. Undrafted safety Ladarius Gunter led the way for the Pack, becoming their number one cornerback. This season hopes are high, expectations are high, and the atmosphere has some spark to it. The Packers head coach, Mike McCarthy had some praise for the young secondary. “I think our safety group,” McCarthy said, “is as fine a group that I’ve seen in my 20-plus years in this league.” That means a lot coming from McCarthy, someone who has ripped positions and players in the past. The Packers, with the help of rookie Josh Jones look to improve this season. Only time will tell with the Packers young secondary, as they look to give Packers fans all the more reason to hope for another NFC North Championship and solidify their spot in the playoffs.