After the Packers selected Datone Jones last night, I hit up my friend Ryan Rosenblatt from UCLA blog Bruins Nation and the SB Nation NFL newsdesk and asked him if he could give us the lowdown on the defensive lineman. He more than obliged. His words are below.
Datone Jones came into UCLA with a fair amount of hype, got playing time as a freshman and then really flashed elite pass rushing skills as a sophomore, which raised expectations tenfold heading into his junior year. Unfortunately, Jones broke his foot before the season and had to redshirt, which didn't just wipe out an entire year for him, but it kept him from playing at his best when he came back as a redshirt junior. That quick first step, which made him so good as a sophomore when he played a true 4-3 rush end, was gone his junior year and UCLA even experimented with him at tackle.
Little did Jones know at the time, but that junior season ended up being a big bonus for his development. Because he couldn't rely on just out-running guys around the edge, Jones had to learn how to hold the edge and work inside. That showed his senior year when Jim Mora's defense played to his versatility, using him all over the line to great effect. He was a force inside against the run, held the edge when asked to play outside and with his foot 100 percent healthy, he found himself in the backfield with regularity.
Jones' biggest asset is that he can really play all over the defensive front. Inside, outside, in different schemes, Jones can make an impact all over. Odds are, he'll fit in best against the run on the outside in early downs then slide inside and be a rush tackle on third down, but his ability to play all over should make him easy to fit in and use from day one.
The big concern with Jones is how he struggles when engaged sometimes. He does well to keep opposing linemen's hands off him, but when they get him, he often has trouble getting free. Some have speculated it's just a technique issue, other think he needs to get a little stronger, but whatever the answer is, he's going to have to do a better job getting disengaged.
Questions from APC
1. Does Jones have the size to play 3-4 defensive end?
Definitely. That's where he spent a lot of time as a senior last year and at 6'4'', 283 lbs. with the frame to put on a little more weight if need be, playing 3-4 end shouldn't be a problem. In fact, it's probably the best place for him.
2. Jones will have a chance to start, but who certainly won't be penciled in as a starter to begin training camp. Do you think he can win a job and be an every down starter?
Can he? Sure, but I don't think he will from day one. He'll definitely be in the rotation in Week 1, but my guess is that he'll probably be used primarily as an interior rusher at the beginning and work into a bigger role as the season goes on. While I wouldn't bet on him starting in Week 1, i'd bet on him starting in Week 17.
3. You said that some think he has poor technique when engaged, while others think he needs to get stronger. What do you think?
Both? Jones' technique can let him down at times and he'll give up trying to positively work through being engaged, disengage and try to run around the linemen. That said, if he got a little stronger, he probably would be able to at least get a push and get free once he got the opposing lineman back pedaling. I don't think it's as much an either/or question as him having room to improve at both.
4. Going from Westwood to Green Bay probably sucks. Think he's going to handle that well?
Datone should handle it okay. Obviously, most guys would probably rather be in Westwood than Green Bay, but Datone is from Compton and even if it's sunny in Compton, Green Bay is a fine place to be by comparison. Datone was one of the most mature, level headed players in the UCLA program, too, and wasn't known as the guy out in Hollywood or partying in Santa Monica every weekend, so he should be fine.
5. What is your favorite kind of candy?
Thanks to Ryan for his time, and I hope you've learned something you didn't know about the Packers' first round pick.
Check out all of Acme Packing Company's draft coverage: 2013 NFL Draft Central | Green Bay Selects Datone Jones in First Round | Packers' Team Needs | Prospect Film Study Profiles | Packers' Complete Draft Order