He tied for 10th in the nation with 19 tackles for losses. That's impressive for a big guy: Of the 11 players who had at least 19 TFLs, only Jones, Arizona State's Will Sutton, South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and Bowling Green's Chris Jones would line up as defensive linemen in a 3-4 scheme.
It was a major improvement over past seasons. As a freshman in 2008, sophomore in 2009 and junior in 2011, Jones tallied a combined 17.5 tackles for losses.
"I think the biggest thing was getting his base fundamentals down as a defensive lineman," defensive line coach Angus McClure told Packer Report.
"His old style was he was trying to penetrate too early and trying to make plays too early. We focused on fundamentals — his first step, where his hands should be, which gap he should be playing first. Once he solidified his gap then it was, ‘Hey, now I can penetrate and go.'"
McClure was named UCLA's defensive line coach in January 2012 after serving as special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator for the past five seasons. McClure emphasized fundamentals with Jones during spring practices, and everything began clicking at the end of the spring and into summer training camp.
"When we got rolling last August, he really took off from where we left off in the spring and really developed those techniques," McClure said. "By doing that, then he put it together to where you saw his acceleration, his burst to the football and his finish."
Under Mora, not only is every player graded on every play, but the coaches also grade the players' finish on every play. According to McClure, Jones graded out the highest "every single week" among defensive players.
With Jones embracing McClure's teaching and finishing plays with high effort, his athleticism came to the forefront. Among defensive players weighing at least 280 pounds at the Scouting Combine, Jones' 40-yard time of 4.80 seconds was the fastest. Moreover, his 10-yard split — which measures a player's acceleration — of 1.63 seconds tied for the fastest.
To raise his game another notch, Jones started doing mixed martial arts training.
"It's hand-eye coordination," Jones told Packer Report, "being able to strike with my hands violently, being able to get off blocks, being able to tell when offensive linemen are about to punch me, and it helps setting pass-rush moves up."
Added together, McClure thinks the Packers have a star-in-the-making at a position where the Packers haven't had an impact player since Cullen Jenkins departed following the Super Bowl season.
"I think he will be," McClure said. "He really took off this year and he played at a higher level this year than he's ever played. I just see him, now that he has these base fundamental techniques, that he'll take off even higher. I really see that in Datone. Each week, he got better and better and better and better. Then he did the (Senior Bowl) against higher-level competition and kept getting better and better and better. He worked over that kid from Central Michigan (No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher) in the Senior Bowl."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.