An enraged Datone Jones ruthlessly throws punches at FoxSports.com senior writer Jay Glazer in West Hollywood. MMA training is a small part of an equation that will define success for Jones in 2014. With a healthy slate, increased opportunities and anchoring the defensive front, Datone Jones will be the most improved player for the 2014 Green Bay Packers.
Drafted 26th overall by the Green Bay Packers in the 2013 NFL draft, Jones came to the frozen tundra oozing with potential. With 19 tackles for a loss during his senior year at UCLA, he was expected to create havoc behind the line of scrimmage. Instead, an ankle injury slowed his progression. Head coach Mike McCarthy noticed Jones' promise along with his decline in play at the 2014 NFL Combine. Vic Ketchman of Packers.com quotes McCarthy on Datone Jones:
At the end of the day, Datone Jones needs to be on the field and playing. Datone is a very talented young man. His injury at the end of training camp set him back. I’m looking forward to getting him back in the offseason. I think he’s one of those players that make a huge jump.
With that being said, Jones will receive more playing time in 2014 now that he's fully recovered. According to sportingcharts.com, he only played in 256 defensive snaps out of the Packers 1,049—less than 25 percent of the time Green Bay's defense was on the field. Reiterating McCarthy's quote from above, Jones will see his playing time increase substantially. To seize this increased opportunity, Jones has been strenuously training this offseason. By taking on workouts like MMA training, he is looking to increase his power on the field. ESPN's Rob Demovsky quotes Jones' statement at the 2014 Green Bay Packers' OTAs:
I came into the NFL trying to finesse offensive linemen, and that's not going to work. After last year, I had a chance to reevaluate my game. I noticed that I could have come with a lot more power because I'm a strong guy, and I was telling Mike that's one thing I need to keep doing is use my power more.
Datone Jones' propelled success will give the Green Bay Packers' defense a lot to be excited about. ESPN statistics show the Packers finishing 25th in the NFL for opponent rushing yards per game. The progression of Jones is badly needed to stitch this gaping hole in the defense.
Just having Jones on the field will help. Emerging as the best defensive lineman for the Packers, he will require a double team more often than not. Other playmakers such as Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels and Julius Peppers will be freed up to pursue the ball carrier. This fact alone could make Datone Jones the key for success in the trenches of Green Bay.
A healthy Datone Jones will lead to increased playing time. And more opportunities will allow him to flash his power, disrupting offenses. These chain of events will make Jones the most improved player for the Green Bay Packers. As long he avoids throwing punches at opponents, Datone Jones should become the best defensive lineman for the Packers.