Former first-round pick Datone Jones is in the final year of his contract, which means he could very well be playing his final season with the Green Bay Packers.
Jones hasn’t performed at a level commensurate with his draft status during his first three seasons in Green Bay. He has 37 total tackles and eight total sacks.
The Packers decided to shake things up with Jones right smack dab in the middle of the 2015 season, moving him from defensive end to outside linebacker. That was a questionable time to make such a move, considering Jones had never played outside linebacker before. Learning a new position isn’t something you want to do during the season.
Still, Jones performed pretty well in the limited snaps that he got.
Now he’s actually had an offseason to acclimate himself and learn what it means to play outside linebacker. That can obviously only be a plus and Jones says he’s loving it.
“I’m loving it,” Jones said. “A situation happens like this, you can jump in there and boom — you could fill a role and play it. Now, I’m excited because I actually do get a full season to learn coverages, learn how to cover tight ends and running backs. Just rush from different angles.”
In the limited sample that we got, it certainly looks like the Packers miscast Jones as a defensive end from the start.
That’s unfortunate and now Jones is faced with a make or break year.
Play well and get a new contract or don’t and become another first-round bust.
It’s not quite that simple, of course.
Jones still faces an uphill battle to get snaps. Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers are the starters. Youngster Jayrone Elliott will be pushing for more playing time and fourth-round pick Kyler Fackrell will also factor into the mix.
So Jones not only better love playing outside backer, he better play it better than he ever played defensive end and he better do it throughout training camp.
If he doesn’t, he’s going to be an afterthought when the season begins and he’ll end up unemployed after it ends.