Notebook: Datone Jones could shine brightest in nickel, dime packages

Jul. 28, 2013

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Green Bay Packers defensive end Datone Jones goes through drills Sunday. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media

Injury report

New injuries: CB Tramon Williams (knee).
Still out: WR Sederrik Cunningham (wrist), WR Charles Johnson (knee), WR Kevin Dorsey (lower body). RB DuJuan Harris (knee), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), CB Davon House (illness), S Chaz Powell (foot), OL JC Tretter (ankle), DL Mike Neal (abdominal), OT Derek Sherrod (leg), DL Jerel Worthy (knee).
Returned: LB Jamari Lattimore (illness).


The Green Bay Packers used their first-round draft pick this year on Datone Jones in part because they viewed him as a versatile defensive end who could play in any package and on any down.

So far, there’s been nothing to suggest he won’t excel in any and all roles. But where they could get the most out of him, at least initially, is in their subpackages.

During a practice that was heavy on third-down plays, Jones on Sunday made for a strong sidekick to defensive tackle B.J. Raji in the nickel and dime packages. That twosome was paired together regularly during team periods in the first full pads practice of the summer.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers spent most of last season searching for someone to pair Raji with when he went to his two-linemen looks. Mike Neal, Mike Daniels and even Ryan Pickett took turns in that role, but none provided the kind of consistent pass rush Capers wanted. While Raji had an otherwise solid season, he often faced double teams from interior linemen and failed to record a sack after combining for 9½ in his first two seasons combined.

“I didn’t know he was that quick,” Jones said of the 6-foot-2, 337-pound Raji. “He’s a very quick guy, so the coaches brought me in and put me in the nickel with him so we can get after it. He’s a guy who can rush the quarterback. I can rush the quarterback, so I feel like we can get after it a little bit.”

Jones had an impressive first day in pads.

“I thought Datone looked very good, very comfortable,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s in good shape, and I thought he had a good first day just from what I saw.”

The 6-4, 285-pound Jones showed off his power during some of the team periods, when he got some push as a pass rusher, and then used his speed to smoke first-year center Garth Gerhart in the one-on-one pass rushing/pass blocking drill. He also beat another backup linemen, Andrew Datko, in the drill and had a respectable showing against starting guard T.J. Lang.

“He’s a guy that just going against him all throughout the offseason and the last couple of days, he’s a guy that’s got a lot of quickness to him, a lot of speed,” Lang said. “Today was the first day that us as linemen could really feel the power of our opponents, and he got under me a couple of times and showed some power. He’s a guy that looks like he’s got enough talent to rush the passer, but he’s also got enough strength to hold up in the running game.”

Jones cashes in

The contract Jones signed on the eve of training camp last week included a signing bonus of $3,992,072.

With guaranteed money totaling $6,259,336, most of the four-year, $7,716,600 deal is guaranteed, according to a source with access to NFL Players Association salary information.

With a base salary of $405,000 as a rookie, Jones will receive more than half of the total value of the contract this season. His 2013 pay, which includes his signing bonus and base salary, will be $4,397,072.

Jones’ remaining base salaries are: $755,755 in 2014, $1,106,509 in 2015 and $1 million in 2016. The only other bonus money in the deal is a $457,246 roster bonus due in 2016.

With Jones’ signing bonus prorated over the four years for salary cap purposes, he never has a cap number higher than $2.455 million. His cap number this season is $1.403 million.

Crosby's approach

If you hear Mason Crosby repeat one word this summer, it probably will be “free” — as in thinking free and swinging free.

Coming off the worst season of his six-year career, the last thing the Packers kicker wanted to do was make things more complicated. So he didn’t beat ball after ball. He didn’t dwell on the 12 misses in a 24-kick stretch late in the season. Surely, there were fundamental flaws he and special teams coach Shawn Slocum worked to correct, but he’s also focusing more on the mental aspect of things.

“I just kept everything simple,” Crosby said. “Just see the ball, see my target and hit it to that. I feel good about my mindset coming into camp here, and I just have to keep applying it every time I go out on the field.

“My mindset is just being free and swinging free and going through the ball and just allowing it to do what it does.”

But converting an NFL-low 63.6 percent of his field goals last season has put Crosby in a training camp competition for the first time since 2007. The Packers signed first-year free agent Giorgio Tavecchio. In one field goal session so far, Tavecchio gained a slight edge. He went 5-for-6, while Crosby went 4-for-6 during a kicking period on the first day of camp. Crosby missed from 50 and 53, while Tavecchio missed from 53. Both also made 53-yarders.

Coach Mike McCarthy plans to kick them every other day, but Sunday’s kickoff period counted for their most recent work. There was no field goal kicking.

“It’s nice how the camp sets up,” Crosby said. “It gives us every other day and in between we can work on stuff we need to and then go out and compete and have fun doing what we get to do.”

Extra points

■ With cornerback Tramon Williams dropping out of practice with what McCarthy described as a bothersome knee, rookie Micah Hyde worked with the No. 1 defense in the final team periods.

“I don’t know the details of it, but his knee was bothering him,” McCarthy said. “We held him there halfway through practice.”

■ Though rookie receivers Kevin Dorsey (lower body) and Charles Johnson (knee) remained out, McCarthy said, “I’m told it’s not a serious nature for both of them.”

■ Today is a players’ day off as mandated in the collective bargaining agreement after the third day of practice.

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