Destiny Fulfilled? Versatile Josh Jones Making Waves in Seahawks' Talented Secondary – Sports Illustrated

RENTON, Wash. – Following a stellar junior season at North Carolina State, Josh Jones opted to declare early and take his talents to the next level. And, after putting on a show at the NFL combine, including running a speedy 4.41 40-yard dash, the safety thought for sure he already knew where he would continue his football career.
Built with a similar frame to "Legion of Boom" enforcer Kam Chancellor and possessing elite athletic traits, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Jones believed he was destined to wind up with the Seahawks. Though he hadn't reportedly visited with the team on a pre-draft visit, with Chancellor desiring a new contract and the scheme being a perfect fit for his aggressive, hard-hitting style, the stars seemed aligned for him to become Bam Bam's heir apparent.
"At the time, it only made sense," Jones said. "At that time, the system they were running, you take that system and then you take the type of player I was coming out of college. I looked at – obviously they still had Earl [Thomas] but then Kam was dealing with what he had to deal with – it made sense."
But while Seattle may have been enamored by Jones' size, athleticism, and skill set and had interest in grooming him to supplant Chancellor, general manager John Schneider used two second-round picks on defensive tackle Malik McDowell and center Ethan Pocic, filling two areas of immediate need. Only a few picks after Pocic went off the board, Green Bay snagged Jones with the No. 61 overall selection.
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, as Chancellor suffered a career-ending neck injury midway through the 2017 season and Thomas bolted as a disgruntled free agent after suffering a broken leg in 2018.
Though Jones started in seven games as a rookie and contributed 71 tackles and a pair of sacks, his time with the Packers did not go as envisioned either. Struggling with consistency in coverage, he failed to secure a long-term starting role in two seasons with the organization and after they signed veteran Adrian Amos and drafted Darnell Savage in the first round of the 2019 draft, he was unceremoniously waived with a non-injury designation before the start of the season.
Over the next two seasons, Jones bounced around with the Cowboys and Jaguars, starting 13 games for the latter in 2020. With a new coaching staff led by Urban Meyer coming to town, however, he didn't stick around for a second season with the organization and was released during final roster cuts last August, putting his career at a crossroads.
But as fate would have it, Jones would find his way to Seattle in a roundabout way after all. Following a brief stint on the Colts practice squad and active roster, he hit the free agent market again in early December and the timing couldn't have been better from the Seahawks' perspective.
Only a few days after Jones was waived by Indianapolis, star strong safety Jamal Adams suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder while tackling 49ers tight end George Kittle. Needing surgery to repair the injury, he was placed on season-ending injured reserve, creating a need for experienced depth with backup Ryan Neal vaulting into the starting lineup as his replacement.
One week later, Jones was added to Seattle's practice squad, immediately receiving a game day elevation to chip in on special teams six days later. After dressing for three games as a reserve, he started in place of an injured Neal in the season finale and impressed, racking up 10 tackles and producing a pass breakup in coverage to aid a 38-30 road win over Arizona.
"Things happen the way they're supposed to," Jones remarked. "God don't make mistakes, but I ended up here… When they needed me, I stepped up and I was able to go in there and just fill a spot that was needed."
Calling himself a "believer in manifestation," Jones recalled playing in a Thursday night game in Seattle during his second season with the Packers and immediately falling in love with the city and the scenery. Though it took five years to happen, the stars aligned for him to finally sign with the Seahawks and the fit couldn't have been a better one for the player or the team.
Echoing similar sentiments shared by many players who have spent time in Seattle over the years, Jones says the Seahawks "accepted me for who I am," allowing him to simply focus on football every time he enters the facility and not dwell on the past. Thriving in a scheme that meshed well with his strengths, he wanted nothing more than to stay in the Pacific Northwest.
Becoming a free agent after the season concluded, the 27-year old Jones had to wait a while to receive a new contract. But all along, after playing well to close out the season, he expected to return to Seattle. Sure enough, even with Adams and Quandre Diggs cemented as starters in the secondary and Neal back for another season, the team re-signed him to a one-year deal in May to bolster depth in the secondary and on special teams.
This spring, Jones participated in the Seahawks entire offseason program, receiving extensive snaps in OTAs and minicamp with Adams and Diggs still recovering from offseason surgeries. Off the field, he was able to sightsee around the city and become more comfortable with his surroundings, something he didn't have a chance to do after signing late last season.
Crediting new coaches Sean Desai and Karl Scott for his personal growth, Jones indicated he's seeing the field and understanding the game better than he ever has because of their focus on small details. The results have shown throughout training camp thus far, as he has picked off quarterback Geno Smith twice and made a number of big hits during Seattle's two padded practices, showcasing his diverse skill set while playing both safety spots.
"I can just use my God-given abilities and show my range, show my physicality, show coverage ability," Jones explained. "To do all these different things that God's blessed me with that I've may have not been able to show in other in other defenses. But I know with these coaches, they've brought up these small little details, just the little things that help you see things a lot better."
With the Seahawks scheduled to play a mock scrimmage on Saturday and their first preseason game in Pittsburgh one week away, Jones understands he has much work left to do to secure a spot on the 53-man roster. With Neal, Marquise Blair, and Ugo Amadi all offering game experience at safety and a quartet of intriguing undrafted rookies also competing, there's no guarantee the team will have room to keep him and he can't afford to take his foot off the gas pedal.
But so far, Jones has been one of the biggest revelations in Seattle's training camp on either side of the football and he has capitalized on Adams and Neal missing practice time by playing well with the first-team defense. As the team looks poised to utilize more nickel and dime packages with extra defensive backs on the field this year, his size and athletic traits coupled with his ability to play multiple positions at a high level will only improve his odds of making the team.
Embracing the competition and relishing the opportunity presented to him after taking a unique path to join the Seahawks, Jones' goals remain stacking quality days together and improving each time he takes the field. If he can do that, after showing what he could do in an audition last year, he likes his chances of sticking around in the place he always thought he would be.
"Every day I wake up, I'm thankful for a brief minute, but I just focus on being one percent better than I was yesterday. I take that daily approach. And once you take a consistent approach every day, and you're not up and down, you just let the rest take care of itself."

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