PASADENA, Calif. -- Datone Jones needs a new nickname. Just don't expect him to coin it himself.
"Safety man Jones" and "touchdown man Jones" seem to fit the bill these days after Jones, a senior defensive lineman, has a tackle for a safety and a touchdown reception over the last two games, but Jones doesn't want any part of those monikers.
"I'm done with the nicknames," Jones said.
That's probably a good move. Jones dubbed himself "sack man Jones" before last season, then went on to have a pretty forgetful year. He started last year in a rut and through the first five games he had had only six tackles and one tackle for a loss. He finished the season with 41 tackles and 6.5 for a loss.
This year, with a dedication to playing the scheme instead of playing selfishly, Jones is thriving. He has 13 total tackles, including eight tackles for a loss, through three games, and also made an impact on the other side of the ball.
In each of the last two games, Jones has swapped jersey numbers to No. 97 and lined up as a tight end in a goal-line situation. It's part of a short-yardage package offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has designed that also includes linebacker Keenan Graham and defensive lineman Cassius Marsh at dual fullbacks.
He caught a seven-yard touchdown from Brett Hundley in the first quarter against Houston. It was the second consecutive week he scored points after recording a game-changing safety against Nebraska last week.
"I’m an athlete," Jones said. "I’m fast and tall I have nice hands. Coach Mazzone utilized the package that we have and I got open and Brett Hundley trusted me to catch the ball and I was there to make a play."
Against Nebraska, Jones also got open in the end zone as a tight end, but Richard Brehaut, subbing in at quarterback for an injured Hundely at the time, rolled to his right and didn't see Jones alone in the back middle of the end zone.
"I was like ‘please throw it to me’ but you know what, I’m happy they didn’t see it last week because then I wouldn’t have had this one," Jones said.
Coach Jim Mora came away impressed with Jones' skills on the offensive side of the ball.
"That was a nice catch by Datone," Mora said. "It was not an uncontested catch. He had the guy flash the ball and it was nice."
As for using Jones, Graham and Marsh in and offensive package, Mora said it's just the coaches trying to get creative.
"We’ll run the ball out of it, throw some play action out of it and it’s just our coaches utilizing the talent that our guys have," Mora said. "Getting guys in position to make plays."