It's far-fetched to think Brad Jones will have the same kind of career as James Harrison. Nonetheless, it's wise to recall Harrison's rise to stardom before dismissing the Packers' seventh-round pick from Colorado as just a training camp body.
Harrison began his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of Kent State in 2002. Harrison failed to make the Steelers' roster in 2002 and 2003 and the Baltimore Ravens' roster in 2004. Harrison was re-signed by Pittsburgh late in 2004, and a few short years later, he is the NFL's reigning defensive MVP.
The 5-foot-11 Harrison is undersized, and so is Jones. While Jones has the height at 6-foot-3, he weighs about 238 pounds. That's a good 15 pounds shy of the ideal for a 3-4 defense.
But it's the other things that made general manager Ted Thompson think Jones was a "good get" with the 218th selection in the draft. First, Jones is a three-year starter. Second, he's versatile. Third, the Buffaloes played a 3-4 defense. Fourth, he's got the passion to beat the odds.
"It didn't really matter who called me up," Jones said in a conference call. "If you guys called me up two days from now and say they want you to come to rookie camp, I was going to come to Green Bay to work regardless."
The intriguing thing about Jones is his ability to cover receivers yet rush the passer. As a senior, he tallied seven sacks and 14 hurries.
"There was times when I was a three-point rushing the passer, there was times when I was dropping back like I was a safety, covering the tight end man-to-man," he said. "I think I definitely have a knack for rushing the passer. I cover tight ends about as good as I rush the passer. Pass coverage and rushing the passer – just playing on the edge I think I do really well."
All of that caught Thompson's eye. Jones showed the kind of versatility that spurred him to give up three coveted draft picks to move back into the first round to select USC linebacker Clay Matthews III.
"He lines up everywhere," Thompson said. "He'll line up as a pass rusher with his hand down. He'll rush from the inside linebacker spot. I've seen him detach from the formation and play over the slot, not unlike what USC did with Clay. They moved him all around, as well. I think he gives us a guy that can really, really run, has coverage ability, and is a pretty productive pass rusher."
To be certain, Jones has an uphill battle. The Packers already had a bunch of outside linebackers before selecting Matthews. Along with Matthews, Jones will be joined by holdovers Aaron Kampman, Brandon Chillar, Brady Poppinga, Jeremy Thompson and Jason Hunter. That's seven outside linebackers, and inside linebacker Desmond Bishop can play on the outside, too.
"We started watching a lot of tape on him over the course of the last month," Thompson said. "The more you watch, the more you like."
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