Cards Target Hybrid Linebacker at Senior Bowl

The Cardinals defensive front seven is in transition, especially at the defensive end-linebacker position. Calvin Pace is a free agent and Chike Okeafor and Bert Berry are coming off season-ending injuries. The Cardinals went about protecting themselves at that position by scouting one of the top hybrid defenders at the Senior Bowl.

Jason Jones (6'5", 270 pounds) was a standout defensive end at Eastern Michigan. He is a versatile athlete, starting his career as a tight end before switching to defense. As a senior, he tied for seventh in the NCAA and led the MAC in tackles for loss with 19.5 (1.63 per game). Jones also forced a fumble and blocked a kick.

Although Jones played primarily defensive end in college, he has the athleticism to play some outside linebacker in Arizona's 3-4 scheme. Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin gave Jones some reps at linebacker during Senior Bowl week and was impressed by the results.

"We're getting many different looks with guys at many different spots, almost like when they first come into college," Kiffin said. "If there's something we think they can do to help themselves, whether we do it in the game or not, just getting it on film may help them in the draft."

Jones would provide the Cardinals with insurance on many levels. He can play linebacker if Calvin Pace leaves as a free agent, or if Chike Okeafor re-injures himself. Jones can also play defensive end if Bert Berry is released or injured.

Playing in a 3-4 scheme would be something new for Jones, but he is certainly up for the challenge.

"I'm really trying anything right now. I just want to learn," he said.

Prior to the Senior Bowl, the last game Jones played in was in November. Despite the long layoff, he said he felt pretty good during practices. He used his time in Mobile, Ala., to learn so he could bring that knowledge onto the field.

"Coming out here, putting on the pads again made me feel kind of weird, but once you get out there it's all cake," he said.

Not counting the Cardinals, Jones met with several teams at the Senior Bowl, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit Lions, Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, and Seattle Seahawks. He said the interview process was nerve wracking at first, but he acclimated quickly.

Jones is an incredible athlete. He runs a 4.75-second 40, which is fast for his size and position. He is a bit of a sleeper candidate, so it remains to be seen how he will do in on a larger stage.

Motivated to get his hands on the ball, he uses his lengthy frame to break up plays, hurry quarterbacks and force the action to the middle. Jones could be a true asset for the Cardinals if he performs as expected.

So what could a player of his ilk bring to the desert?

"I'm a great character player who won't get in trouble off the field and is a hard worker," he said.

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