Sack totals can be misleading as a measure of an NFL pass rusher’s effectiveness. Case in point: Datone Jones.
Jones, the Packers’ first-round draft pick in 2013, has just one sack in the team’s first eight games. But according to Pro Football Focus, the 6-foot-4, 285-pound graduate of UCLA is making an impact in other ways: 10 quarterback hurries and four quarterback hits in just 131 snaps for a pass-rush rating of +5.2. That ranks third on the team behind Mike Daniels (+11 pass-rush rating, on 383 snaps ) and Julius Peppers (+7.3 on 388).
“Sometimes, sack totals don’t tell the whole story,” Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. “He had a couple of good pressures the other day (against Carolina on Sunday). Sometimes, when a guy is doing the right thing ... in the Detroit game last year (30-20 Packers victory) he caused a safety, but that doesn’t go down as a sack. I’ve seen guys come in and cause pressure on the quarterback and then somebody else gets the sack who didn’t do anything.”
Trgovac cites a couple of reasons for Jones’ improved play, primarily the fact he has avoided the ankle injuries that slowed him during his first two seasons.
“Knock on wood, he’s staying healthy,” Trgovac said. “Last couple of years, Tone’s game has been improving. He’s made some really big plays for us, and then he has a setback with an ankle injury. And then it’s like he’s starting from scratch again, and by the end of the year he’s playing good again.”
Trgovac said he also is seeing maturation in Jones, 25, who grew up in notoriously rough Compton, Calif.
Jones was suspended for the 2015 season opener because of an NFL substance-abuse violation. In October, he and his wife Lauren welcomed an infant daughter, Laila.
“As he matures – he got married, he’s had a kid – all those things are a factor,” Trgovac said. “I think Tone is right on track. He’s done a good job for us this year. He’s getting better every day. No pass rusher is going to win every snap. He’s coming along and doing the right things and moving in the right direction.”
Jones spoke with Press-Gazette Media this week about being a father and an important member of the Packers’ defense:
How’s parenthood so far? Getting any sleep with an infant daughter in the house?
It’s hard to sleep at night, but it’s the best gift I ever had. I thank God every day for her. And I’ve got a beautiful wife who supports me back home.
You’ve said you’re determined to be a good dad and provider. Has becoming a father refocused your priorities?
My priorities have never really changed. I got into a situation in the offseason, but it doesn’t take away from who I am as a person. It doesn’t take away from my work, my character, my work ethic. I’m a hard-working guy and a very focused guy on football. I study football the way I studied at UCLA, where I graduated (with a degree in history). I’m passionate about the game, and I have a daughter now and a wife, and that’s more of a priority to me because I’m not just playing for myself.
You had a challenging childhood growing up in Compton. Now that you’re a father, do you appreciate even more what you were able to accomplish in getting out of there?
Growing up, football was my way of getting out of poverty. I’m out of poverty now, and it’s my time to show my daughter and my wife that I’m their Superman, and also help this team win games and championships and Super Bowls. I wouldn’t change a thing. All that shaped me into who I am today. I’ve got a strong mind and a strong family, and I’m here today.
Do you ever get back to Compton?
I go back a lot. I train there. I work out there sometimes with the kids. Go around the school, a lot of guys don’t want to play football, I try to convince them to play. My high school coach, Calvin Bryant, does a great job in the community and helping guys on the team go off to college.
You’ve been seeing action in the dime package. Are you trying to build off that and get more reps?
Yeah, we’ve all got our starting roles. You got a guy like B.J. Raji. He’s not a starter in dime. He’s our starter in base. It’s an unselfish defense. I know B.J. Raji would love to be the dime starter. I’m just fortunate to be our dime starter. We have a lot of talented pass rushers here. I’m just learning my role and taking (bleep) from nobody and competing out here every day.
You’ve got one sack this season, but do you feel like you’re improving and applying more pressure?
I’m taking it a day at a time. I’m being patient. I’m learning every day. I’m learning my opponent. I’m studying the film. I’m just working hard.
What’s it like going one-on-one with an offensive tackle? What tricks do you use?
I’m trying to win those one-on-one matchups, put the team in position to win the game. I don’t want to give any tips away. I’m trying to figure out what moves work best vs. him.
What’s your take on the Packers’ recent pass-rushing problems?
Sometimes you need to be hit in the mouth to learn.
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