Packer fans everywhere were beyond excited when Josh Jones was drafted by the Packers in the 2017 draft, and for good reasons. Jones was a standout defensive back at North Carolina State and Packer fans, executives and coaches had high expectations for him his rookie season. Jones did not disappoint. He almost has become a fan favorite in his first year at Green Bay.
Most people were curious to see how he would be utilized in the 3-4 scheme. He made some noise early on in the season with the introduction of the ‘nitro’ package. His combination of speed and athleticism made him an attractive look in the box and he still had to ability to roll deep into coverage if needed. In Jones’ rookie season he racked up 71 tackles, 2 sacks and 1 interception. Now with the loss of Morgan Burnett, Jones will more than likely be the next man up at the strong safety position. Lets go to the tape and take a look at how he was used last season and some ways he might be used in the upcoming season with new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
Playing The Run
Lets first take a look at the way Jones plays the run. His ability to play the run, read flow and make a play was the thing I liked most about him. He was a flexible player, which is something vital to the 3-4. Against the Bears here he is playing as the ‘Will’ (weakside outside) linebacker. After he rolls down in the box this is no different look than a base 4-3. By having Jones play the Will backer role it allows him to have a strong presence in the flats in a cover 3 look. I probably watched this play a hundred times on tape just because I was really impressed with the way he played the run away from him here. The thing that I like is that he is patient, under control, and always keeps the ball carrier in front of him.
It would be easy for a defensive back to get out of control and take off on a sprint towards the ball carrier only to have him cut back. Jones knows here that he is the last line of defense when it comes to playing the cutback. If he over runs this play then the back could break it for a big gain. Sometimes people get it confused when it comes to playing a run like this. As a defender you want to get there but the key is to do it patiently. Nothing good comes from a player at linebacker depth playing out of control.
We saw a Jones line up at the inside linebacker position a fair amount this past season when the defense went to the dime package. The thing I love about this play is his change of direction. It would be real easy for a player lining up in a 30 tech (outside shade of guard, 5 yards off the ball) to read flow and continue to scrape down the line. Not Jones. He keeps his feet buzzing continuously and is able to redirect. The defense comes out in what I call a 22 front. A 22 front would have both interior defensive lineman in 2 techniques, or head up on the guards.
Gap control is crucial in this front. Since both interior defensive lineman are head up here is how the gap assignments would look:
- Run goes to the left, right DT would have the B gap, Jones plays backside B gap
- Run goes right, left DT would play B, Jones scrapes over the top and plays C
- Run goes ahead (dive), Jones plays the B gap on his side
To clarify, the A gap is the space between the center and guard. B gap is between the guard and tackle. C gap is between the tackle and tight end. This, to me, is a testament of how Jones must be smart and know all of these scenarios pre-snap. In this front alone he knows he could potentially have to cover each gap. If you watch carefully you will see he is playing the backside B gap but redirects to make the play.
Another thing that I loved about seeing Jones play the run was that he played everything down hill. There are times where I would watch a team play the dime package and put a defensive back in the box and depend on him to play the run, only to see him get outmatched by the offensive line or blocking back. Not Jones. Look at how quick his read is in this clip. As soon as he reads run he is coming downhill and looking for the back. His angle was pretty good here as well. He comes tight off of the pulling guard and gets just enough of the back to trip him up. Had he played that angle any wider he would have been washed out of the play and would have given up a first down. Angles and pursuit are the name of the game when playing the run and he did both very well last season.
Playing The Pass
Lets take a brief look at Jones’ secondary play. One instance where I thought he looked particularly good was in a 2 deep look. Here the defense is playing a cover 2 look. There was a slight bust underneath so Jones again must redirect and make a play. In the cover 2 look the safety reads the receivers much like the corner would. The general rule of thumb is to read the #2 receiver then get eyes on the #1 receiver. As soon as the ball is snapped Jones is reading the tight end. When the corner reads it he see’s him block for a split second then release into the flats, so he knows he has to play him.
When Jones reads him here he see’s him release to the flats so he gets his eyes on the #1 receiver. The receiver is pushing vertically so he must play him on his deep half of the field. This receiver poses the biggest potential threat in this play so Jones knows he must take him away, which he does. The impressive thing is what happens after the play with his tackle. He takes a good angle on the receiver but then finds the backside receiver who makes the catch and gets him to the ground. The thing that I noticed is that Jones isn’t afraid to hit. He will make his presence felt every single snap, be it in the secondary or in the box.
I think there is a lot to look forward to with Josh Jones. His second year with the Packers will be even better than the first in my opinion. The defense is going to lean much more heavily on him and I know he will be ready to step up and take the challenge on. Look for Mike Pettine to use Jones in a number of ways this season.
Go Pack Go!
Follow me on Twitter for Packers film breakdown and analysis: @PTTF_ChalkTalk