GREEN BAY – It’s almost impossible not to be captivated by Josh Jones’ personality.
One minute, he’s talking about the chip he’ll carry on his shoulder due to all the other safeties drafted before the Packers chose Jones late in the second round, with the 61st overall pick.
He’ll continue with how he expects to make an immediate impact in Green Bay’s defense, and how he plans on going from a 12-game college schedule to a 24-game one as a rookie in the NFL. The only way to do that is to go to the Super Bowl.
There’s a lot wrapped up in those thoughts, first and foremost an outward confidence that no one, in his mind, is going to stop him from being the player he believes he can be.
The next minute, though, he’s discussing admiration for his single-parent mother and the work ethic she instilled in him. How he feels blessed with God-given abilities, how he can’t believe he’ll be learning from Pro Bowler Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and how he was “super nervous” for his first NFL practice in Green Bay’s rookie orientation last week.
A humble undertone accompanies the self-assuredness in a way that could make any new acquaintance root for his proclamations, no matter how bold, to come true.
So, which is Jones’ driving force? Confidence or humility?
If it’s possible to say both, Jones somehow has found the balance. Contradictory? Perhaps, but the best way to put it is Jones is simply comfortable in his own skin.
“I love the game so much, and I would hope that it’s visible when I play,” Jones said in his first face-to-face meeting with Green Bay media last week. “That’s how I play. I play with a purpose.”
The proper term could be multi-purpose for the Packers, judging by how he was used in that first practice before departing late with a minor cramp.
In addition to working at safety, Jones (6-1, 220) did some position drills with the inside linebackers, and lined up there for some 11-on-11 snaps.
Whether the sub-package is referred to as a “small nickel” or “big dime,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said earlier this offseason how much he liked what the defense was able to do with safety Morgan Burnett in that role last season, and he wants to expand on it. In part, that means having more than one player capable of taking on the task.
“In college, I played some linebacker. I played everywhere,” Jones said. “I kind of knew that whatever team drafted me would have some packages for me.”
There’s also curiosity about his coverage abilities in the slot, a la Micah Hyde. Altogether, it would seem the Packers want to groom Jones as another player in a multi-faceted mold.
That’s a lot to throw at a rookie, whose 4.4 speed is attractive as a deep safety and on special teams, too. But Jones took on various roles at North Carolina State, so he’s prepared to absorb a lot right away.
“I’m just Josh Jones,” he said. “I don’t compare myself to Micah Hyde or anybody. I’m my own self. However they want to use me, I’ll be used. I’m a very versatile safety. I can do a lot of things for a defense. It’s all about taking coaching and doing what they tell you to do.”
It’s easy to envision Jones as a high-impact rookie. He burst on the scene early in college, intercepting four passes as a redshirt freshman, ranking second in the Atlantic Coast Conference and in the school’s freshman record book.
Following a 109-tackle, three-INT season in 2016, he declared for the NFL Draft a year early. He’s genuinely thrilled to be in Green Bay with a chance to play in Dom Capers’ scheme, but seeing eight safeties drafted ahead of him – three in the first round, five in the second – before the Packers came calling didn’t sit well.
“A lot of teams passed on me,” Jones said. “Trust and believe that I will never forget that. Every day that I wake up, every day I come here and come to work, that’s never going to leave my head.”
In the meantime, he wants to get inside the head of Clinton-Dix, a safety he’s admired from afar whom he’ll now get to work with up close.
“I watched Ha Ha, his highlights, before my games last season, so it’s crazy,” Jones said. “You’re actually in the locker room with the guy you used to watch on film before you used to play. It’s exciting.”
So is where Jones’ rookie season, and career for that matter, could be headed.
He has the confidence and the drive. He also has the humility and lack of entitlement. It’s an engaging mix.
Now, it’s up to him to prove he has the game.
“I don’t take a back seat to anybody as far as talent. I’m very confident in my abilities, and what God has blessed me with,” he said. “Going into the draft, when I declared, I knew I was an underdog. I’ve been an underdog my whole life.
“I go by the motto of ‘no handouts.’ I don’t want anything handed to me. I want to work for it.”