Aaron Jones returns to the Packers lineup for Week 3 in Washington and it’s none too soon. Through two games, the Green Bay rushing attack has been very ordinary. The Pack is averaging a mere 83.5 yards-per-game ranking them 25th in the league. The Pack hopes that Jones’ return will give the running game some spark for the remainder of the season.
Jones was the Pack’s most effective running back in 2017. He finished the season with 448 yards on 81 carries for a gaudy 5.5-yard average. No other running back on the team averaged more than four-yards per rush.
In his NFL start, Jones gained 125 yards against the Cowboys in Dallas. Two weeks later, he gained 131 yards against the Saints on just 17 carries. A knee injury slowed him down later in the season, but when he was healthy, the 5’9”, 208-pound UTEP alum gave the running game a spark that it lacked when he wasn’t in the lineup.
Jones’ running style is different from the other backs in the Packers RB rotation. He is shorter and more compact than Jamaal Williams and more powerful and explosive than Ty Montgomery.
“He gets up to speed real quick, has really good vision, real good feel for the game, explained guard Lane Taylor. “Last year, he hit some of those runs that weren’t supposed to hit where they hit, but he has a good feel, good vision. I just like that he gets up to speed so fast and makes guys miss.”
Head coach Mike McCarthy refused to criticize his rushing offense after two games. “We’ve played two good defenses,” McCarthy said during his Monday press conference. “I said this the last week: I don’t think there’s really enough attempts to dive deep into evaluation. I thought we ran the ball effectively against the Vikings. I’d like to have more attempts.”
Adding Jones to the lineup should help Williams and Montgomery as well. It will keep all three backs fresh. McCarthy will also be able to have each back play in the situations that are best suited to their specific talents.
Jones missed a lot of training camp due to a hamstring injury. He finally got into the final preseason contest against the Chiefs after missing the first three games. He seemed ready to play but had to sit out the first two games of the regular season after being suspended by the league for violating the NFL’s drug policy.
With Aaron Rodgers at less than 100 percent, running the ball effectively would help slow down opposing team’s pass rush and make Rodgers even more effective.
Jones knew that pass blocking was not his strong suit and spent the offseason working on improving his lower body strength and working on his blocking technique and blitz pickup.
“I’m bigger all around,” Jones told Packers.com. “That’s something that’s going to help me in pass protection and that’s something I want to get better at. I’m stronger, so definitely when a defender who’s bigger than me comes up I can hold my ground this year.”
Before the season, McCarthy indicated he wanted to use a running back by committee approach. Now with all three backs finally healthy and available, he will finally have a chance to implement that strategy.
Adding Jones should give the Packers running attack another dimension and give defenses something more to think about when facing the Green Bay offense. The potential is there. Now the Pack needs to see results.