Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson, left, president
Mark Murphy and head coach Mike McCarthy watch a broadcast
of NFL football draft on televisions in the team's draft
room at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., on Thursday, April
BAY — Datone Jones didn't need a debriefing. The former UCLA
defensive end already knew all about the Green Bay Packers and the
guy who, years ago, played his position best.
about a good way to introduce himself to his new fan base. Jones
brought up Reggie White unprompted in describing his relentless
style of play.
Packers selected Jones with the 26th pick in the first round of
the NFL draft on Thursday night, addressing one of their positions
in greatest need of an upgrade with a 6-foot-4, 280-pound player
who can move all over the line and has a penchant for making big
plays behind it.
had 19 tackles for loss and 6½ sacks for UCLA in a breakout
season in 2012 as a fifth-year senior. With an athletic build and
a basketball background, the lifelong Los Angeles native didn't
start playing football until his sophomore season at Compton High
School. He sat out the 2010 season because of a broken foot but
bounced back from the injury. He even received UCLA's Captain Don
Brown Award for the team's most improved player.
a conference call with reporters, Jones said he actually rooted
for the Packers (plus the New York Giants) growing up. He admired
White, the late Pro Football Hall of Fame pass rusher, from afar.
White played one way: with maniacal effort and just with complete
hunger, no matter who he lined up against," said Jones, who
described the excitement he felt when he saw his name next to the
Packers on his TV screen: "I almost fainted, man. This is
like a dream come true."
has a combination of quickness and strength that should give Green
Bay a valuable run-stopper and pass-rusher up front, an area of
weakness exposed down the stretch last season. General manager Ted
Thompson praised the versatility of Jones, who will wear No. 95.
Jones was the fourth defensive end taken, thanks in part to a
splurge on offensive linemen around the league, and enticing
enough to steer Thompson away from his past penchant for trading
down for more middle-round picks.
were pretty surprised the opportunity was there," Thompson
coordinator Dom Capers spoke highly of his athleticism and
acceleration off the snap. Jones isn't hefty enough to play nose
tackle on a regular basis, but he can ably move to the inside spot
on obvious passing downs, when the Packers use their nickel or
dime defenses. Capers also suggested Jones could play the outside
linebacker spot in certain situations.
become more of a space game," Capers said. "Any time
you're spread out and you're going to cover space, the quicker and
faster you are, the better you're going to be, probably."
Aaron Rodgers used Twitter to welcome Jones to Wisconsin shortly
after the pick was made.
your warmest jacket," Rodgers tweeted. "Winter is
said he actually played in five snowy games in his career.
never bothered me," he said, adding: "I just can't wait.
I'm playing with a great team."
their 3-4 defense, the down linemen for the Packers aren't as
central to the scheme as in a 4-3 system, like when White, Gilbert
Brown, Santana Dotson and Sean Jones dominated up front during
their 1996 Super Bowl season. That doesn't mean the Packers could
afford to ignore this position group, though. Far from it. That
much became painfully clear to the front office, coaches, players
and fans last fall and once winter arrived.
were 26th out of 32 in the NFL last season in yards allowed per
rushing attempt at 4.5. In two December games against rival
Minnesota, league MVP award winner Adrian Peterson totaled 409
yards to help the Vikings split those crucial matchups. The
Packers got in his way a little better in their playoff game at
Lambeau Field, though an early deficit forced the Vikings away
from their standard plan of pounding Peterson into the line.
then came San Francisco. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick ran the read
option all over the Packers and their front seven, running for two
touchdowns and 181 yards, a quarterback record for a playoff game.
Frank Gore tacked on 119 more yards.
tackle B.J. Raji, a first-round pick in 2009, has entered the
final year of his contract. Left end Ryan Pickett, also in the
last season of his deal, will be 34 in October. Right end Jerel
Worthy, a second-round draft pick last year, suffered a major knee
injury in the regular season finale and is months away from being
ready to play again.
ends C.J. Wilson, Mike Neal and Mike Daniels, all draft picks
between 2010 and 2012, haven't done much yet to distinguish
themselves from the pack. Nose tackle Johnny Jolly was recently
signed to see if he can recover from drug problems to help
strengthen the middle, but he hasn't played since 2009.
like the whole group," Thompson said, adding: "Our
veterans will determine the fate of our team, but adding another
good athlete, got a little bit more speed. Trying to add a little
more speed to the defense, we think is a good idea."
Packers entered this draft, the ninth under Thompson, with eight
picks. They have the 55th and 88th overall selections in the
second and third rounds on Friday night.