GREEN BAY, Wis. — When rookie Josh Jones kept making play after play in the offseason practices, there was the typical guarded reaction around the Green Bay Packers.
“We like to reserve judgment when it’s just helmets and shorts,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said at the time. “But I think he looks the part.”
Two days into full-pads practices, Jones continues to make plays.
On Monday, he not only came up with his first training camp interception, but he also had a pass breakup and at least one quarterback pressure that would have been a sack had he been allowed to deliver a hit.
“I’m excited to see what he does in preseason,” veteran cornerback Davon House said.
If Jones continues on his current path, he’ll likely pass that test as well. The second-round pick from N.C. State is on course for a significant role on defense, whether it’s at safety or inside linebacker — or some combination of both.
Jones and another hard-hitting young player, Kentrell Brice, appear to be in a battle for playing time in a package called “Nitro” in which defensive coordinator Dom Capers uses a safety — usually Jones or Morgan Burnett — at inside linebacker and then plays five defensive backs.
“He’s for sure a thumper,” House said of Jones. “He made a pick today, so he can cover, too.”
Jones’ interception came on a perfectly timed break on a pass Brett Hundley threw to the flat for running back Devante Mays. Jones said he read the play the entire way.
“I expected him to throw that,” Jones said. “And I was going to be there.”
Jones’ hard-hitting mentality almost caused a fight in the first padded practice, when he hit rookie receiver Malachi Dupre and then got an earful from veteran tight end Richard Rodgers. Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels said it has already become clear that Jones is “here for business” — an attitude that he says the Packers need more of on defense.
“He’s exactly who we thought he was,” Daniels said of Jones. “He comes in with the right attitude, comes on the field with bad intentions. He has the right type of attitude that you want on defense. It’s nice to have him here. He’s already setting himself up to be a great leader here, just by the way he goes about his business.”
Said Packers coach Mike McCarthy: “He plays with a tenacity, he’s always around the football. He’s very instinctive, has that excellent range, so he’s off to a good start.”
As for Jones’ next step — that preseason opener on Aug. 10 against the Eagles — there’s little reason to think he won’t keep doing what he has done.
“I don’t look backwards, I don’t look forwards,” Jones said. “Today is the day. What I did today is in the past. Now I’m looking on what can I improve? I’m not worried about Aug. 10. I’m not worried about what happened yesterday. It’s just, I’m focused on what I did today.”