Who is Brad Jones? Most Packers fans will tell you that he’s awful. Jones was a much maligned player last season. He and AJ Hawk provided very little from the inside linebacker position. Jones graded out on Pro Football Focus at a -4.0 score. He ranked 28th of 55 qualified ILBs. While this is not great, it certainly isn’t the abomination that it’s made out to be. My theory is that maybe Jones doesn’t get any benefit of the doubt from media members because by all accounts he isn’t a very nice person.
But can Jones be more than 28th of 55? Can he be more than average? He certainly was better than average in 2012. Jones was a pleasant surprise that season. Jones’ +11.4 grade that season was good enough for 10th place of the 53 qualified players. That’s not only well above average but most would consider Jones a Pro Bowl alternate or close to it that season, checking in to the top 10 at his position. Coaches and Jones himself blamed last season’s struggles on an injury and at age 28 during just his 3rd season at ILB it’s possible for Jones to continue to grow as a player.
So what if Jones becomes part of solution instead of part of the problem? I’m not saying that it’s going to happen or even that it’s likely but for 700 snaps in 2012 it did happen. Jones was a positive presence on a defense that needed one. Brad Jones and AJ Hawk have NEVER had 5 more talented players playing in front of them. Matthews, Daniels, Raji, Jones and Peppers are a hell of a front. 4 1st round picks and a lunatic. Jones and Hawk are out of excuses.
I want to make one thing clear: I do not expect AJ Hawk to be a Green Bay Packer in 2016. Hawk has a restructured contract that will keep him a Green Bay Packer through the 2015 season at a number that should not require his release unless 2014 is a disaster. To ink Hawk to a new deal at that point would be to commit for multiple years to a 32 year old player. The other thing is that I don’t believe you can have a Super Bowl defense if your best inside linebacker is Brad Jones. The question then becomes is Jones a part of the next era of this defense?
If Jones can move back to being one of the best 10 or 15 inside linebackers in the league, the Packers only have to worry about replacing Hawk, not Jones and Hawk. It’s much easier to find one effective player at a position than it is to find 2. The Green Bay Packers have long had a “soft underbelly” of the defense but with Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward patrolling the slot areas and HaHa Clinton-Dix a part of the safety group that might change. If Brad Jones moves from being a liability to an above average player that might change in a very big way.
1. BJ Raji 7/25
2. Brad Jones- 7/29
3. ??????- 8/1
4. ??????- 8/5
5. ??????- 8/8