GREEN BAY – Despite the injuries the Green Bay Packers’ defense has had to overcome, inside linebacker Brad Jones likes the improvement he has seen throughout the season.
He should. He’s been a major reason for it.
Jones said in every Wednesday meeting there is a “stock market profile” on the defensive game plan, and recently, that arrow has been pointing up. Jones’ reason for that upward trend? Adaptability.
“I think the uniqueness with our defense is really (in) our adaptability,” Jones explained Wednesday afternoon. “Teams tend to game-plan (and) scheme us a lot and I think our adaptability is second to none. We see what’s coming, we reload on the sidelines, and I think nobody misses a beat. It’s just, ‘we know what’s going, we got it, let’s go.’ And we can shut teams down.”
It makes sense that the fourth-year linebacker player sees it that way. After all, it took him adapting to a new position – and some injuries – for Jones to contribute defensively this season.
Jones, who spent most of his four college seasons at outside linebacker at Colorado and played at the same position for his first three NFL seasons with the Packers, made the switch to inside linebacker during the offseason. And he’s found the position comes naturally to him.
“I’ve loved moving inside and being able to do stuff on the inside,” said Jones, who was credited with 13 tackles (10 solo) and also broke up a pair of passes during last Sunday’s victory over the Chicago Bears. “It’s been easy to showcase my athleticism. It’s been good.”
Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy sure thinks so. McCarthy has been impressed by Jones’ play, especially now that the inside linebacker has found a position that he can call “home.”
“I’m a huge Brad Jones fan,” McCarthy said. “I think Brad, in a sense, he can do so many things well. He played probably too many positions and then he’s finally getting the opportunity to play inside and be a play-maker and be in that role, and look at what he’s done.
“He played outside linebacker and did a good job, but he was a little undersized for the position. But he’s at home now. I’m very happy for Brad because he’s truly a guy you can point to as far as when you’re building a program, doing all the little things right, doing all the dirty things, playing all the special teams and he’s always done a great job with it.”
Although the switch took place during the offseason, Jones didn’t play a snap on defense until the Packers’ Oct. 14 win over the Houston Texans when D.J. Smith tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The injury to Smith, who’d taken over as the starter after Desmond Bishop suffered a season-ending hamstring injury in preseason, gave Jones the opportunity to play at his new position. And since then, he’s found himself in the starting role each week, registering 81 tackles, one sack and four pass breakups.
Jones likened the switch between the two positions to the differences between playing the violin and viola – two instruments he has played himself for 17 years.
“It’s like a violin and a viola,” Jones explained. “(They’re) two different instruments that kind of sound the same but you like each of them equally, different. Subtle differences. Each has different strings but you’re still holding it up to your ear, and you’re still playing it.”
Though Jones claims the differences between the two positions are subtle, he does believe the amount of work he put into the transition between the two roles is the reason for his success, and his ability to adapt to the new position. Jones started seven games at outside linebacker as a rookie seventh-round in 2009, then five more there in 2010 before injuries left him out of the rotation. He then started the regular-season finale and playoff loss to the New York Giants there last season – he had a sack in each of those two games – before moving inside in the spring.
“I’ve been trying really hard out there and I think it’s been paying off,” Jones said. “Just doing extra stuff. I mean, everybody says that, it’s the NFL. I know everybody does extra but I think just putting in the extra things. I think it just all adds up. I think in the long run, all the little stuff just adds up.”
And while the arrow on stock market profile may have been pointing the opposite direction at the beginning of the season, all that matters to Jones is where it points now.
“We don’t need to look back really,” Jones said. “It’s this season. I think it’s just all about moving forward, keeping the ball running, keeping the momentum going, not just at my position, but with the whole team. I think that’s what it’s about.”
Sarah Barshop covers the Packers for ESPNWisconsin.com. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/sarahbarshop.