In Every Way, Jones Rises Above D-Linemen

From character to athleticism to versatility, UCLA's Datone Jones was the obvious choice among an attractive group of defensive linemen available at the end of the first round. If he plays with the same "maniacal effort" Jones recalled from Reggie White, the Packers might have a star.

Datone Jones has big shoes to fill for the Green Bay Packers.

The shoes of injured Jerel Worthy? No, bigger than those.

The shoes of Cullen Jenkins, who the Packers have badly missed the past two seasons? No, bigger than those even.

Rather, Jones pointed to the "Minister of Defense" himself, Reggie White.

White, of course, is merely a Pro Football Hall of Famer and arguably the best defensive lineman in NFL history. It wasn't a matter of Jones and an inflated ego or just some stupid rookie popping off at the mouth. Rather, it was Jones holding himself to a lofty standard that had less to do with statistics and accolades and more to do with the work and attitude necessary to reach his goals.

"Just knowing him and watching a lot of him when I was growing up, all I know is Reggie White played one way, and that was with maniacal effort and just complete hunger," Jones said. "No matter who he lined up against, he wanted to dominate. And that's the type of player I want to carry myself after, just a player that wants to dominate at whatever he does and wants to win. I hate losing and I'm happy to come to an organization like Green Bay, with a winning tradition. To be able to play at Lambeau Field is crazy. I'm so hyped up right now already. I just want to play."

The Packers are going to need Jones to do more than play. They're going to need him to play exceedingly well as a rookie for the defense to find its championship form from two seasons ago.

Mike Neal finally flashed with 4.5 sacks in 2012, but nobody else on the defensive line did anything of note. Run-stopping C.J. Wilson had 2.5 sacks. So did Worthy, last year's second-round pick who tore his ACL in the season finale and figures to miss a good chunk of the upcoming season. Mike Daniels, a fourth-round pick, had two sacks. B.J. Raji has gone from 6.5 sacks in 2010 to three in 2011 to zero in 2012.

Jones' measurables are outstanding, which provides some hope he can make an impact in today's evolving NFL. Jones (6-4, 283) ran a 4.80 in the 40 at the Scouting Combine. That was the fastest among any defensive lineman weighing at least 280 pounds. For context, Florida's Sharrif Floyd was second-fastest at 4.92. Jones' 10-yard split of 1.62 seconds also was fastest among that group of defensive linemen.

"He's very quick off the ball," general manager Ted Thompson said. "He's got the ability to accelerate his feet to close on a quarterback."

That speed is becoming more and more of a critical element to defend the likes of Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III – the quarterbacks on the Week 1 and Week 2 schedule, coincidentally enough.

"Obviously, you'd like to have as much speed as you can," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "I think the way the offenses are heading – we work against our offense every day on the practice field and you're going to be spread out. It's become more of a space game. Any time you're spread out and you've got to cover space, the quicker and faster you are, the better you're going to be probably."

Football, of course, isn't a track meet. It's about the total package, and that's why Jones was the selection even with a bunch of attractive options available to fortify the defensive line.

With 6.5 sacks and 19 tackles for losses playing defensive end in UCLA's 3-4 scheme as a senior, Jones was more productive than SMU's ultra-athletic Margus Hunt. Jones missed all of 2010 with a broken foot, but that injury isn't a big deal compared to the torn ACL sustained late in 2012 by Florida State's Tank Carradine. Not only is Jones taller than North Carolina's Sylvester Williams and Purdue's Kawaan Short, but he's stronger and more explosive – making him a better fit in Green Bay's scheme.

"It's a good fit for me because they run a lot of different schemes," Jones said. "They run a lot of 3-4, a lot of different fronts, a lot of nickel. That's what I'm used to playing. I can play a five(-technique end). … Sometimes I'll rush over center. I can stand up on the outside and play the run from there. Their defense is a little bit built for me."

The intelligent and well-spoken Jones also fits the Packers' model as a high-character player. If not for his strong body of work at the Senior Bowl, chances are Jones would be waiting until Friday to be drafted. Asked about the importance of that week in Mobile, Ala., Jones went another direction.

"On our own, me and my teammate, (running back) Johnathan Franklin, went down there to a church in Mobile for community service at an inner-city church," Jones said, "where a lot of people were down and didn't have father figures, a lot of relatives being arrested and falling into drugs, just messed-up communities. I wanted them to know I come from the same background, and everything will be OK if you just trust in your parents, you believe in God, and you do everything the right way. And for me to be up there in front of 2,000 people, it was just so amazing. I felt so good after that. I was like, forget the game, being there and being able to do that in the community, it felt so great."

Of course, the Packers aren't going to be paying Jones a couple million bucks to make feel-good speeches. They're going to be paying him to make quarterbacks and offensive linemen feel bad.

Jones, who grew up cheering for the Packers and Giants, says he's ready for that challenge.

"I only play the game one way," Jones said. "When I was younger, I heard the saying about Reggie White. He didn't want to know what was going on in the backfield. He didn't want to know the personnel. The only thing he knew was to beat the guy across from him and that's the way I grew up playing this game. I put my pads on and I played, and the reason I'm so versatile is because I played one way. I just want to defeat the man across from me and make the play."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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