The NFL's reigning Defensive Player of the Year led all NFL defensive linemen with 15 batted passes during the 2012 regular season, according to statistics compiled by ProFootballFocus.com. That nearly doubled his next closest pursuer, the San Diego Chargers' Corey Liuget.
The Packers, on the other hand, have not had a defensive lineman bat down more than two passes in a season since 2009.
That could change soon.
First-round draft pick Datone Jones, the tallest defensive lineman on the offseason roster, has the pedigree to disrupt passing lanes, whether playing inside or out.
"I feel like batting passes down, I feel like that comes from guys disengaging and getting their hands up and knowing when to do it like J.J. Watt," said Jones. "That's one of his things, one of his parts of his game that he's good at. But being a d-lineman, you should want to do that regardless. I don't know if that comes only for d-linemen with size; you see guys like Mike Daniels, he works so hard and he's probably 5-foot-11, 6-feet, but he's a great defensive lineman."
Despite Jones' comments about Daniels, height usually wins out in the NFL when it comes to knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage. Watt is 6-foot-5. Liuget is shorter at 6-foot-2, but still two inches taller than Daniels. And the all-time king of batting down passes, the reason for it being tracked as a statistic, was the Dallas Cowboys' Ed "Too Tall" Jones, who stood on the extreme end of height for defensive linemen at 6-foot-9.
Datone Jones stands 6-foot-4 with a 79-inch wingspan, just two inches shorter than the Cowboys' Jones. In his career at UCLA he had five pass deflections, and before that, as a senior at Compton (Calif.) High, he was credited with three deflections.
On special teams, Jones also contributed on punt team and field goal defense for the Bruins. He blocked two kicks in 2012.
"Everybody has to be on the same page. Everybody has to do their part," said Jones of blocking kicks. "Offensive lineman, they start to get selfish. You hit a guy many times, and they get selfish and start leaning. It's just like, you know the movie ‘300?' Everybody has their shields and they have that one weak link? If that one weak link is there it collapses the whole line."
The last time the Packers blocked a kick was in 2009 when Johnny Jolly got a hand on Josh Brown's 48-yard attempt at St. Louis. Jolly returned to the Packers this off-season after a three-year absence that included an NFL suspension for substance abuse and jail time. Coincidentally, he was really the last player the Packers had with such a dual knack for blocking kicks and batting down passes (he led the NFL with 10 in 2009).
But Jolly's roster spot for the Packers this time around, at 30 years old, is much less certain than that of a 22-year old first-round pick. Jones realizes expectations and his height can add an element to his game to separate him from others – just like Watt.
"He's helping change the game," Jones said of Watt. "I want to be one of the guys who does the same thing - change the game. But all I can do is try to better myself every day."
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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at email@example.com