I apologize to those who hoped to read earlier about the Green Bay Packers' selection of UCLA defensive lineman Datone Jones. I got stuck away from the computer for an extended time Thursday night as the Minnesota Vikings dipped into some unexpected drama just as the Packers' turn at No. 26 overall arrived. So it goes.
So what can we say about Jones at first blush? First, logic had suggested all along that the Packers would try to address their defensive line. (In fact, three of the NFC North's four teams drafted a defensive lineman Thursday, for whatever that's worth.)
Second, Jones gives the Packers a physical specimen they haven't had on their defensive line in a long time. At 283 pounds, he is big enough to play end in a 3-4, but at 6-foot-4, he is the Packers' tallest lineman. (Jones was primarily a basketball player in high school before beginning football in 10th grade.) He ran the 40-yard dash at 4.80 seconds at the NFL scouting combine, and his 20-yard shuttle time of 4.32 seconds was the best at his position.
"If you're drawing up a defensive end," defensive coordinator Dom Capers told reporters, "you'd like to have a guy with his kind of height and length."
Said general manager Ted Thompson: "Trying to add a little more speed to the defense we think is a good idea."
Put it all together, and the Packers have what they hope is an outside disruptor who isn't named Clay Matthews. In his final season with the Bruins, Jones had 5.5 sacks and 19 other tackles behind the line of scrimmage. It would be disappointing if he didn't win one of the starting defensive-end positions manned last season by C.J. Wilson, Mike Neal and Jerel Worthy.
We've spent plenty of time this offseason discussing the Packers' plans to improve against the read-option offense that ended their playoff run in San Francisco. The natural reaction is to say that Jones is an obvious antidote to that because he is big and fast. It stands to reason he'll be better equipped to cover more ground and chase fast quarterbacks.
I'm not sure it's that simple. But if you need to get better, and the Packers certainly do, big and fast is better than the alternative. Good night.