In today's prospect preview, we take a look at a highly-regarded defensive end, Datone Jones from UCLA. His versatility and ability to play multiple positions on the defensive line is making him appealing to teams running a wide range of defenses, and he could be a good fit for the Green Bay Packers' 3-4 system.
Jones shows great explosion off the line. His reaction time is above average and his acceleration off the line is fantastic. Jones is highly inconsistent with how low he fires out however; he can fire off and engage the offensive lineman very high, losing leverage in the process, or he can fire off very low with power to get under the opposing lineman, driving them back with great leverage. The issue seemed to worsen as the game went on which causes me to question Jones’ conditioning a bit. Jones also is not a hustle player. Jones rarely runs down plays from the backside and when he was taken out of a play he showed little desire to get back into it. Again, this made me wonder if he was trying to conserve energy due to poor stamina. Jones is also very inconsistent with his tackling as he tends to take a poor angle to the ball carrier, aim high and tackle using his arms. Jones was able to play effectively from any position on the line, from 0-technique all the way to 7-seven technique and everything in between.
Jones’ success against single lineman was directly correlated to how high he played. When he came off high, he tended to get locked up and wasn’t able to disengage from the offensive lineman. The offensive lineman was also very often able to turn Jones out of the run lane. When Jones fired out low, he usually was able to win the leverage battle and put the offensive lineman on his heels. When playing with leverage, Jones showed great aptitude at disengaging from defenders, showing very precise hand attacks to knock the offensive lineman’s arms away and knock him off balance. Once disengaged, Jones was able to locate and attack the ball carrier. When run plays were down the line from Jones, he was effective at fighting across the offensive lineman’s face to squeeze the runner and close up run lanes. Jones has the ability to quickly penetrate the line with great explosion, footwork, handwork and body control to get into the backfield and make big plays. Jones did this at a very impressive rate.
When looking to disengage quickly off the snap, Jones displayed a slick swim move that often confounded the offensive lineman responsible for blocking him. Unfortunately, Jones’ lackluster tackling ability would show up far too often in quick penetration scenarios as he often took poor angles to the ball carrier once through the line and would not finish the play despite the impressive burst. What’s more, in selling out his run lane in order to penetrate, runners would often cut into Jones’ area of responsibility, resulting in big run plays.
Against double teams, Jones showed an ability to split when he fired out low and explosively. Jones used impressive footwork to step between the defenders and would turn his torso to present little surface area for the lineman to block while effectively using his hands to prevent the linemen from latching on to him. When there was not an opportunity to split double teams, Jones ran into trouble. Jones didn't sink his body weight in response to double teams and would get driven off the ball at times. The problem was compounded when Jones came off the line high to begin with and he was often taken out of the play completely, while leaving his linebackers exposed to combo blocks. Jones was at times able to fight off the double team with his hands to work through it, but all too often he was simply beaten.
Against single linemen, Jones is a very good interior pass rusher. Jones shows an assortment of interior pass rush moves to beat linemen off the snap including a very slick swim move where he quickly clubs the offensive linemen’s hands to the opposite side of the swim and a good rip move, showing the ability to get underneath the offensive lineman and then disengage and close on the quarterback. Jones also has the ability to simply bull rush and collapse the pocket and shows the ability to get the offensive lineman off balance and toss them away to close on the quarterback. As a speed rusher, Jones is much less successful. Jones does not show good bend or body angles to turn the corner or even threaten to turn the corner on tackles and is often easily stood up or washed out of the play. Jones does not show any counter moves at all, and even if he did, they would not likely be successful due to his inability to even threaten the corner on offensive tackles.
Against double teams, Jones again shows the ability to fire off the line quickly and split double teams to create pressure. Even when he couldn't split the double team, Jones was able to create pressure when he fired out low by focusing on one of the linemen and bulling them back to collapse the pocket. When Jones came off high, he would predictably get stonewalled and didn't create pressure. When Jones couldn't create pressure he showed the wherewithal to get his hands up to attempt to bat the ball down or drop into a shallow zone to clog passing lanes.
Analyzing Jones was incredibly frustrating for me. For stretches of play he looks for all the world like a third round prospect, only to put together a stretch of dominant play where he looks like a clear mid-first round pick. Really, Jones showed everything you’d want out of a great 5-technique in a 3-4 but he seems very inconsistent and appears to either possess either sub-par stamina or a bit of a lack of desire to hustle. Despite these issues I have to give Jones a mid-to-late first round grade. All the talent is there to be a great end in a 3-4, but Jones will need good coaching in order to become more consistent and learn how to react better to the more consistent double teaming he’d see in the 3-4. For right now, Jones should probably work in a rotation and not have immediate starting expectations put on him, but I believe he can become a great 3-4 end in very short order.
From what I see on film, I believe Jones should either play a 3-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 or end in a 3-4 as a pro, as he does not show the exterior rushing talent required to play end in the 4-3.