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Why are the Packers refusing to put Josh Jones on the field?

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If he’s not good enough to play, how did the Packers believe their safeties were good enough not to add talent this offseason?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers
If Josh Jones can’t help this team, where is the talent at the safety position and why didn’t they add any?
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

For one game, the Green Bay Packers appeared to have a superstar. Once again, Ted Thompson had hit on a second-round steal. Josh Jones was everywhere in Week 3 for the Packers last season, blowing up plays, coming downhill to make tackles, and destroying the Cincinnati Bengals off the edge on safety blitzes.

But injuries to Morgan Burnett forced Jones out of position. And even once Burnett returned, it was the veteran playing Dom Capers’ Nitro position, not the better-suited Jones. Rookie issues with reads and man coverage were to be expected, especially for a player with a skill set that should put him more near the action, not patrolling the deep middle.

Mike Pettine was supposed to come in and change that, putting Jones back where he belonged. This was, after all, a player Green Bay drafted and immediately said would play dime linebacker for the Packers. It was a tacit acknowledgement that the North Carolina State star safety should be in the box, coming downhill.

Offseason work, mini-camps, and training camp came and went but Jones was running behind not only Kentrell Brice but undrafted free agent Jermaine Whitehead, who has actually turned into a nice player for Pettine’s defense as a versatile overhang defender.

Where did things go so wrong for a player who was second on this team in snaps among defensive backs last season? Was it assignment problems? Was he not reading and reacting well enough? It’s difficult to speculate too much having not watched him in practice or been privy to his assignments play to play.

When Pettine was asked about his safety group before the season, Jones’ name didn’t even come up. It’s clear the Packers viewed him as a limited player, someone belonging in the box.

Okay, great.

But when the season once again came around, the safeties struggled. No sign of Jones. The inside linebackers looked slow and out of position without Oren Burks. Jones remained stuck to the bench.

Frustrations came out in a recent interview Jones gave where he said he wanted to work for his paycheck. Why would the team draft him in the second round if he wasn’t going to play?

It seems obvious that a player with his athletic traits should have a place on this team. Special teams mistakes could be holding him back. Jones did play nearly 37% of special teams snaps last season. That’s seen as an essential piece of how he contributes on this team. But if that’s what’s holding him back from playing more, it’s the type of old school coaching mentality that has plagued Mike McCarthy over the years.

Jones should be on the field over players like Antonio Morrison and Korey Toomer (!), the latter of whom has inexplicably getting snaps at times ahead of both Burks and Jones.

The simple answer may just be Jones isn’t very good. Practice could be bearing that out. But given what we’ve seen from some of the players in the Packers defense, it’s hard to believe Jones couldn’t be a useful player in the three-safety looks Pettine loves. Every time Kentrell Brice misses another tackle, the cameras should zoom in on Josh Jones as he looks longingly into the distance, his thousand-yard stare saying all it needs to say.

Frankly, this should be a question at every Mike McCarthy and Mike Pettine press conference. The next time Brian Gutekunst takes the podium, he should be getting at least one Josh Jones question as well. This is a physically gifted player with legitimate draft pedigree who played major snaps for the Packers just a season ago. And he flashed playmaking ability. Why has he fallen so far? This is a question worth asking, and it’s something for which this coaching staff and front office must answer for.

Because if he isn’t eventually going to be given an opportunity, it makes Green Bay’s faith in its own players look faulty. Eric Reid, Kenny Vaccaro, Tre Boston, and other safety options were available in free agency. It’s possible the Packers traded their best safety to the Browns for a backup quarterback. (I understand talent wasn’t the reason for that trade, but still.) If they aren’t willing to give Jones a shot, there’s no way Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, in the final year of his deal, and two undrafted free agents — neither of whom have ever shown anything to suggest they’re quality starters — could have been enough.

This is a simple calculation: if Josh Jones really isn’t good, then that shines an even brighter line on the team’s inaction at improving the safety position in the offseason and up to when Reid signed just a few weeks ago with the Panthers. And if Jones is good, or at least can be, why is he not getting opportunities? Either way, the Packers got this all wrong.