Was safety a position of need for the Green Bay Packers?
No, not with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett entrenched as the starting tandem. Yes, with top backup Micah Hyde signing with Buffalo and Burnett heading to free agency at the end of the upcoming season.
Could the second-round selection of North Carolina State’s Josh Jones be construed as the beginning of the end for Burnett? Perhaps. While that’s obviously getting ahead of ourselves, Jones has a skill-set similar to Burnett’s. While the Packers use their safeties interchangeably, Burnett does his best work in the box. That seems to be Jones’ fit, too. At 6-foot-1 3/8 and 220 pounds and with a Combine-high 20 reps on the 225-pound bench press, Jones packs a punch inside. Burnett played as a situational linebacker at times last season; Jones has that ability, too. In fact, at 220 pounds, Jones was practically made for that role to start his NFL career.
“He’s a very good tackler in space and in the box,” director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst said. “He’s one of those guys at N.C. State, you’ll see they drop him in there, kind of play a will linebacker and he’ll shoot the gap and take on the big guys inside and has no problem doing that. And when he’s back in the back end and he’s got to get the speed guys, he has no problem with that, either. So, I think with Josh, versatility, that’s the exciting thing for us is the ability that he can do so many things.”
Jones was an all-around impact performer. Based on numbers in ProFootballFocus.com’s Draft pass, in our group of the top 19 safeties who met the Packers’ size and athletic parameters, Jones ranked second-in run-stop percentage and 11th in tackling efficiency (13 misses), and yielded a 54.3 percent completion rate and a 50.0 passer rating. The missed-tackle count could be a byproduct of those slow times in his agility drills.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein: “Jones is a height-weight-speed prospect to be sure, but he's not just a traits-based safety. Jones has the appetite for hitting that teams will want around the box and he has the speed and ball skills to range and help against vertical threats from a deep safety spot. The big area of concern will be Jones' ability to play with better discipline in coverage and as a tackler. He has the ability to become a good, long-time starter in the league.”
CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler: "Looks the part with his height, length and build. Explodes out of a cannon on his tackling angles, accelerating in a flash. Speedy in pursuit to track down ballcarriers from behind. Aggressive hug-and-finish tackler in the open field. Quick diagnose skills to sense what is about to happen, keeping his eyes on the prize. Anticipates well, but he is still learning how to recognize various limbs on the route tree. Struggles with double moves and combos. Needs to tweak his tackling technique to consistently wrap and finish. Pad level can be problematic at times."
Gutekunst, on Jones’ eight interceptions in three seasons: “He can get off the hash. He’s got really good range to go find the ball, good ball skills. His ability to get off the spot is impressive because he’s able to get to the ball.”
Jones, on his reaction to being drafted: “Oh, my – it’s so hard to explain. I was so filled with joy. It’s such a blessing. I dropped to my knees. I had to just thank the Lord. I’m just so happy. I’m so, so, so happy that my name got called, especially by a great organization like this.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.