That’s a good thing, because the franchise drafted the 220-pounder who runs the 40 in the lower four seconds range, for a reason.
That reason is to bring its Dom Capers-coordinated defense into the modern era by implementing the nitro … a scheme that energizes the traditional nickel package with a Jones-style player who can play in coverage as a safety, but move down into the box to stop the run as a linebacker.
Packers GM Ted Thompson has been working to improve the Packers defense through the draft over the past couple of seasons.
Two drafts ago, he went after defensive backs – a move that is still being evaluated.
This past draft, Thompson addressed the defense once more, but this time went after Josh Jones to give the Packers the opportunity to implement the nitro – a defense that has come into vogue and has been effective for teams like the Arizona Cardinals (Deone Bucannon), the Rams (Mark Barron), the Redskins (Su’a Cravens), and the Falcons (Keanu Neal).
In addition to adding Josh Jones to the defensive backfield, Thompson also signed free agent and former Packer cornerback Davon House, as well as picked cornerback Kevin King in the first round this past spring.
“We like the flexibility [the nitro] gives us especially week-to-week when you’re playing different styles of offenses,” Dom Capers, the Packers’ defensive coordinator, said this week.
“A lot of these offenses, (they’re) just looking for matchups now. You’ve got to be able to match up with the same caliber of athlete.”
The realization that the nitro is a defense that works well to match up against the newer offenses gives the Packers one more piece to the defensive puzzle that has never been completed over the past couple of seasons.
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Many feel that the plight of the Packers defense has stifled the team and kept Green Bay from reaching the Super Bowl. And if the Packers are to win at least one more Super Bowl during the Aaron Rodgers regime, they need to figure out the biggest needs on the defensive side of the ball.
Ranking 31st last year on defense wasn’t the answer. It was Aaron Rodgers that carried this team to the NFC Championship game. Ranking among the worst defenses in the league isn’t going to cut it anymore.
Aaron Rodgers can’t be relied on to carry the team season-in and season-out.
He needs help.
And with Thompson’s attention to the defense in getting Capers the players to implement the nitro, it’s a step in the right direction. Coupling the likes of Josh Jones with veteran Morgan Burnett should be an effective combination.
Both can play at the line of scrimmage and both have the speed to cover on the back end. It could be a potent combination … at least that’s what the Packers are hoping.
The Packers aren’t making it a secret either. They have been lining up their defense in the nitro since the beginning of training camp and though Burnett most likely won’t be on the field for the first preseason game Thursday against the Philadelphia Eagles, Jones will be out there.
“Sometimes, (keeping it under wraps) gets to be overrated,” Capers said. “You don’t want to go into regular-season games not having worked much on what you’re going to work on during the regular season.”
As the preseason continues, look for the Packers becoming more comfortable with the new defensive scheme. The idea is to slow the run and challenge on the pass.
However, the other deciding defensive factor will be the pass rush.
Green Bay still has Clay Matthews and Nick Perry on the outside, but the only player drafted this year to help on the outside, Vince Biegel, is out with a foot injury. Getting him back will be crucial to shoring up the outside pass rush. Given the injury history of Matthews and Perry, the hope is that Biegel will be healthy enough to make a difference.
The jury is still out on that move, but the optimism is high.
The next two years, with Aaron Rodgers still under contract, are being looked at as potential Super Bowl seasons … that is if the defense shows vast improvement.
Time will tell.
Stay tuned …