GREEN BAY, Wis. – Coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson say it every offseason: It is not the rookies who will make the difference for the Green Bay Packers but rather the returning players.
With that in mind, in the next couple of weeks we will take a look at some returning players who need to take their game to another level in 2014.
Next up, defensive end Datone Jones.
Why he needs to step up: Maybe it was the ankle sprain he sustained on his first snap of the first preseason game, but the 2013 first-round draft pick never got going last season as a rookie. Before the ankle injury, he looked unblockable during the first two weeks of training camp practices. He played just 24.2 percent of the defensive snaps despite being active for all 17 games (including playoffs). Jones played primarily as an inside rusher in the sub packages. He had very few snaps in the base 3-4 defense. Late in the season, fellow rookie fifth-round pick Josh Boyd was getting more snaps than Jones, the 26th overall pick.
What he has to do: By his own admission, Jones relied too much on his quickness and athleticism last season rather than using his power. This year, he plans to attack offensive linemen with his strength in an effort improve upon his 3.5-sack rookie season.
Outlook: Defensive coordinator Dom Capers plans to pair Jones with Mike Daniels as the primary inside pass rushers in the nickel package. The Packers expect more than 3.5 sacks this season. Jones would like to be a three-down player, but he has yet to carve out a role for himself in obvious run situations.
Quotable: "I came into the NFL trying to finesse offensive linemen," the 6-foot-4, 285-pound Jones said. "And that's not going to work."