Brad Jones rose from the hinterlands of the depth charts last season to step in at inside linebacker and used his late season solid performance to land himself a new contract and a spot at the top as the penciled-in starter at the position for 2013.
Could this be the year for Jones? Could he break out from his role as a special-teamer and backup linebacker?
There are many who feel he could and will – including Marc Sessler, who tabbed Jones as one of his “Making the Leap” candidates in his NFL.com Around the League column.
That’s what Sessler wrote in his opening paragraph of the column published yesterday. To back up his statement, Sessler includes three plays from last season that illustrate Jones’s potential.
Granted, it’s only three plays, but Sessler believes that Jones, who has played most of his time as an outside linebacker, has the speed, quickness, toughness, and smarts to make the move inside – and to be productive at the position.
In fact, the Packers were so pleased with the play of Jones last season that they re-signed him to a three-year deal worth $11.75 million, including $3 million to sign with possible Pro Bowl escalators. That’s a pretty good deal not only for Jones, who was also wooed by the Tennessee Titans, but for the Packers. Value is GM Ted Thompson’s mantra and Jones could turn out to be one of those players who epitomize Thompson’s strategies.
The 6-3, 230-pounder was selected in the seventh round (218th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft. That’s value right there. Just ask Donald Driver, who was also a seventh-rounder.
Last season, Jones played in all 16 games, had 56 tackles and 21 assists, four passes defensed, and one forced fumble.
Those certainly aren’t Clay Matthews-type numbers, but they are solid enough that the Packers decided to expend nearly $12 million on the guy.
Sessler best describes Jones’s role with the Packers:
In Green Bay’s 3-4 scheme, Jones played as a weakside gap plugger tasked with winning one-on-one matchups on his side of the field. In his better performances, Jones emerged as an instinctive defender able to shake off blockers and get to the ball carrier. He displayed those qualities in Green Bay’s 21-13 win over the Chicago Bears in Week 15.
Going into 2013, Jones will revisit that role, but will have to fight for his spot as a starter. Considering there will be competition across the board for starting spots on both sides of the ball, Jones will be one of those players who will have to trip and fall in order not to be lining up at one of the inside linebacking positions when the Packers take the field against the San Francisco 49ers on opening weekend.
What do you think, Packers fans? Was Jones a good value signing by the Packers and do you think he will line up at inside linebacker as a starter when the season begins?