RENTON, Wash. — After a stellar junior season at North Carolina State, Josh Jones decided to make an early statement and took his talents to the next level. And after putting on a show at the NFL combine, including a speedy 4.41-yard dash for 40 yards, the security man was sure he already knew where his football career would take him.
Built with a similar physique to Legion of Boom enforcer Kam Chancellor and boasting elite athletic attributes, the 6ft 2, 220lb Jones believed he was destined to end up with the Seahawks. Although he reportedly didn’t visit the team on a pre-draft visit as Chancellor wanted a new contract and the scheme suited his aggressive, hard-hitting style perfectly, stars seemed to be aligned on him to become Bam Bam’s heir apparent.
“It just made sense at the time,” Jones said. “At that time, the system that they ran, you take that system and then you take the type of player that I came out of college. I checked – apparently they still had Earl [Thomas] but then Kam had to deal with what he had to deal with – it made sense.”
But while Seattle was enamored of Jones’ height, athleticism and ability and interested in grooming him to oust Chancellor, general manager John Schneider used two second-round picks against Malik McDowell and center Ethan Pocic, filling two areas from more immediate distress. Just a few picks after Pocic went off the board, Green Bay grabbed Jones with the No. 61 overall pick.
Still desiring safety depth behind Thomas and Chancellor, the Seahawks later invested a third-round pick in Michigan’s Lano Hill and a fourth-round pick in Colorado’s Tedric Thompson. Unfortunately, neither player emerged as a viable starting option, and their failed development came at the worst time for the franchise, with Chancellor suffering a career-ending neck injury midway through the 2017 season and Thomas walking away as a disgruntled free agent after breaking a leg in the year 2018.
Though Jones started seven games as a rookie and contributed 71 tackles and a pair of sacks, his time with the Packers didn’t go as planned either. He struggled with consistency in coverage and failed to secure a long-term starting role in two seasons with the organization. After they signed veteran Adrian Amos and drafted Darnell Savage in the first round of the 2019 draft, he was unceremoniously given a non-injury tag before the start of the season.
Jones hopped around with the Cowboys and Jaguars over the next two seasons, starting in 13 games for the latter in 2020. However, with a new coaching staff coming to town led by Urban Meyer, he did not stay with the organization for a second season and was fired last August during recent roster cuts, putting his career at a crossroads.
But as fate would have it, Jones would find his way to Seattle in a roundabout way. After a brief stint on the Colts’ practice team and active roster, he re-entered the free agent market in early December, and the timing couldn’t have been better from the Seahawks’ perspective.
Just days after Jones was lifted by Indianapolis, star safety Jamal Adams suffered a labrum tear in his left shoulder while taking on tight 49er end George Kittle. He required surgery to repair the injury and was placed on injured reserve at the end of the season, creating a need for experienced depth, with backup Ryan Neal jumping into the starting lineup as his replacement.
A week later, Jones was placed on Seattle’s practice team and six days later was immediately given a gameday raise to put himself on special teams. After dressing as a reserve for three games, he started in the season finale in place of an injured Neal and impressed by scoring 10 tackles and hitting a pass break in cover to aid in a 38-30 away win over Arizona.
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“Things happen the way they’re supposed to,” Jones remarked. “God doesn’t make mistakes, but I ended up here… When they needed me, I stepped up and was able to go in there and just fill a spot that was needed.”
Jones, who describes himself as “a believer in the manifestation,” recalled attending a Thursday night game in Seattle during his sophomore season with the Packers and immediately falling in love with the city and countryside. Although it took five years to get there, the stars were in his place to finally sign with the Seahawks and the fit couldn’t have been better for the player or the team.
Echoing similar sentiments of many players who have spent time in Seattle over the years, Jones says the Seahawks have “accepted me for who I am,” allowing him to just walk into the facility every time to focus on football and not dwell on the past. He thrived on a plan that suited his strengths and wanted nothing more than to stay in the Pacific Northwest.
Jones, 27, who became a free agent after the season ended, had to wait a while before getting a new contract. But after playing well at the end of the season, he was expecting to return to Seattle the whole time. Even after Adams and Quandre Diggs were cemented as starters in the secondary and Neal was back for another season, the team re-signed him on a year in May to bolster depth in the secondary and special teams.
That spring, Jones participated in the full Seahawks offseason program, receiving extensive snaps at OTAs and minicamps while Adams and Diggs were still recovering from offseason surgeries. Off the pitch he has been able to tour the city and feel more comfortable with his surroundings, something he was unable to do after signing late last season.
Jones praised new coaches Sean Desai and Karl Scott for his personal growth, stating that he sees the field and understands the game better than ever because of their focus on small details. The results have been evident throughout training camp so far as he twice defeated quarterback Geno Smith and scored a number of big hits during the two paddle drills in Seattle, showing off his varied skills while playing both safety points.
“I can just use my God-given skills and show my reach, show my physicality, show cover ability,” Jones explained. “Doing all these different things that God has blessed me with that I might not have been able to show in other defenses. But I know with these coaches they’ve addressed those little details, just the little things that help you see things a lot better.”
With the Seahawks set to play a mock scrimmage on Saturday and their first preseason game in Pittsburgh in a week, Jones knows he still has a lot of work to do to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. With Neal, Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi all offering playing experience safely, and a quartet of intriguing undrafted rookies also competing, there’s no guarantee the team will have room to hold him, and he can can’t afford to take your foot off the gas pedal.
But so far, Jones has been one of the biggest revelations at Seattle training camp on either side of football, and he’s capitalized on Adams and Neal’s lack of training time by playing well with the first-team defense. As the team appears poised to field more nickel-and-cent packages with additional defensive backs on the field this year, its size and athletic attributes coupled with its ability to play multiple positions at a high level will be its Chances of making the team only improve.
Jones embraces the competition and is excited about the opportunity presented to him, having embarked on a unique path to join the Seahawks. Jones’ goals remain to stack quality days together and improve every time he steps onto the field. If he can do that after showing what he can do in an audition last year, he likes his chances of staying in the place he always believed he would be.
“Every day when I wake up I’m grateful for a brief minute, but I just focus on being one percent better than yesterday. I take this daily approach. And when you take a consistent approach each day, you’re not up and down, you just let the rest take care of itself.”