Ankle keeps top-pick Jones from delivering
GREEN BAY-For one play, the Green Bay Packers were treated to a sneak peak.
On Aug. 9 against Arizona, rookie defensive end Datone Jones toasted the No. 7 overall pick, Jonathan Cooper, and made a beeline for the quarterback.
Then he tripped, sprained his ankle and hasn't been the same since.
"I think you saw his quickness on that play," defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. "Once he gets himself healthy, he'll be a force."
Once he gets healthy. This week, Trgovac noted that Jones is still working through the ankle injury. All the tools Jones flashed at UCLA-athleticism, strength, versatility-were evident in spurts early in training camp. And the Packers are lucky the injury wasn't worse. But Jones might need some time to return to 100 percent.
For now, Trgovac has tempered enthusiasm. And he's also encouraged by other interior rushers on the team.
"We'll see with Datone. I don't think he's confident on that ankle yet," said Trgovac, declining to get into specifics with the injury. "He's still trying to work through playing through the pain of that ankle right now. He's not complaining about it. But he's working through it."
The pain was evident in Jones' first extensive game action last weekend. Against Seattle, he did little with his 14 snaps.
Trgovac said Jones was at his best those first two weeks of camp, yet cautioned that the first-rounder "still needs a lot of work."
"Just the normal process of being a rookie in this league of understanding all the things that go along with personnel that's in the game, the situation that's in the game, the formation," Trgovac said. "You can really hone in on and teach him stuff like that. Stances by the offensive linemen, tips and reminders he can use.
"He's like a sponge kid. He wants to learn."
Outside of regulars B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson remains the classical 3-4 defensive end on Green Bay's defensive line. His value to the defense has not changed on base downs. If Jones' pain does linger into the season, the Packers might be inclined to use other defensive linemen as inside rushers. Trgovac wouldn't look too far ahead himself but did note that both Mike Neal and Mike Daniels had strong summers.
No defensive lineman was as dominant in one-on-one's as the human-cannonball, Daniels. And while Neal has made headlines at outside linebacker, he'll still factor into the defensive line rotation.
The Packers haven't forgotten about Neal's late-season surge in 2012, when he had 18 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 11 games.
"As long as Mike's on the field, Mike makes an impact for us," Trgovac said. "Every time Mike Neal has stepped on the field, he's been an impact guy for us. Hopefully, we can keep him on the field. He's doing very well right now."