The Green Bay Packers are set at safety with the veteran tandem of Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix ranking as one of the NFL’s best duos.
Nonetheless, it’s easy to see how second-round pick Josh Jones will fit on the defense.
The Packers played more dime defense than ever last season, including in some regular down-and-distance situations with Burnett lining up alongside Jake Ryan at inside linebacker. It’s easy to envision the 6-foot-1 1/2, 220-pound Jones playing as a pseudo linebacker, especially with coach Mike McCarthy saying the Packers “need to play more DBs” this season.
“I think they’ll be able to use him in a package like that and he’ll grasp it with no problem,” North Carolina State defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable said.
Huxtable used Jones’ outrageous combination of size and speed (4.41 in the 40-yard dash ranked second among safeties at the Scouting Combine) to its full advantage. In three seasons, Jones intercepted eight passes. As a junior in 2016, Jones had three interceptions, eight pass breakups and 109 tackles.
“We played him as our field safety his sophomore year,” Huxtable said. “We had a senior at our boundary safety, which we call our free safety position. His junior year, we moved him to the boundary safety. He was more of our run safety with less field to cover. Because he’s so big and so strong and such a good contact player, he played that position extremely well for us. He really fit what we do at that position.”
What makes Jones such a fit as the Packers’ dime linebacker was his play as an in-the-box run defender. Among all safeties in the draft class, Jones ranked fourth in ProFootballFocus.com’s run-stop percentage, which measures impact tackles. He added one sack and 3.5 tackles for losses.
“He’s a tremendous blitzer — tremendous blitzer,” Huxtable said. “Loves to blitz, because he’s a contact guy. He’s so sudden and so explosive and made some big plays in the blitz game. He’s so big and strong, and he’s got the speed and the quickness and the explosiveness to be a really good pressure guy.”
Jones earned some Freshman All-America honors with four interceptions in 2014. After picking off only one pass as a sophomore, Jones admitted to a bit of complacency.
“His sophomore year, I think he got a little bit comfortable. ‘I’ve got this stuff now.’ He probably tried to do a little bit too much himself,” Huxtable said. “He came back for his junior year and we moved him to that free safety position and he was more involved in plays and did a great job for us. I’m so happy for him. I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s going to do with it.”
With more than two decades of major college football coaching experience, including as linebackers coach at Wisconsin in 2011 and the past four seasons at N.C. State, Huxtable knows what an NFL player looks like. He has no doubt that Jones has the ingredients to be a hit as a pro.
“They’re getting a great kid,” he said. “Tremendous character kid, loves football. When I say loves football — he doesn’t like it, he loves it. He lives it. Very committed to the game. Hard-working kid. He’s going to give you everything he’s got, every day. Just a super kid.”
Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.