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The Rookie Fireworks Show Has Fizzled So Far

In the absence of Morgan Burnett against the Vikings, I was eager to see what defensive back and linebacker Josh Jones would do playing a full game last Sunday.

All of a sudden I couldn’t find him on the field. Oh no, another injury! But then I saw him playing on special teams. What was the deal?

The published box score showed Jones as having two tackles, and nothing else – I had been hoping for double digits.

I watched coach Mike McCarthy’s post-game press conference, and no one asked about Jones. About mid-day on Monday the snap counts were published: Jones had only 30 out of 77 defensive snaps, all listed as being an inside linebacker. Why was Jones being used so sparingly – especially since the Packers defense was being further depleted by injuries?

Also on Monday, McCarthy held a Q&A session with the press, and in over 12 minutes no one asked about Jones.

I waited until Wednesday, media day for the coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers, safeties coach Darren Perry, linebackers coach Winston Moss – none of them shed any light on the disappearance of Josh Jones.

Finally, someone asked assistant linebackers coach Scott McCurley about Josh’s playing time. McCurley said that Josh was put into the lineup in the past couple of weeks in situations that weren’t the best for him. Apparently the team didn’t think the defensive formations used in the game plan formations planned against the Vikings weren’t optimum for Jones either.

I think what McCurley was hinting at is that the Packers are not yet viewing Jones as a three-down player. They seem to be reserving him for use in the “nitro” formation, where he acts as a hybrid strong safety/linebacker.

So far this year, the Packers have at times used the nitro formation extensively, especially against the Bengals, where both Jones and fellow rookie Kevin King played every defensive snap. Jones was terrific in that game, with 12 tackles, including two sacks.

In the other five games, however, the nitro has been used intermittently and Jones has not had more than four tackles in any of these contests. His snap count percentages have been: 50 percent against Atlanta, 75 percent against the Bears, 51 percent against the Cowboys, and 39 percent against the Vikings.

When the regular season was approaching, fans were all jazzed about how the team’s two top draft choices were going to cause fireworks. It’s disappointing, especially in view of how thin the team is in the defensive backfield, that Jones is currently just a reserve, a role player.

As to the other firecracker, cornerback Kevin King, primarily due to injuries, has played slightly less than has Jones – but the coaches seem to think his readiness for the pro game is ahead of Jones. King was in on all of the defensive snaps against Cincinnati, in 79 percent of them against Atlanta, and in 89 percent of them against Dallas. Due to a concussion, he was inactive against the Vikings, but he cleared the protocol earlier this week, so he should be starting against the Saints.

This is very good news, as Quinten Rollins has been placed on injured reserve, Damarious Randall is nursing his hamstring, Davon House has a quad injury, and Lenzy Pipkins suffered a concussion against the Vikings.

Given the quarterback situation, the team more than ever needs to get these two highly-touted defenders up to speed and on the field more often.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.