This is the next in a series of position previews as the Green Bay Packers prepare to open training camp to prepare for the 2020 NFL season.
The Green Bay Packers already had a strong pair of running backs last season in starter Aaron Jones and backup Jamaal Williams. Jones went over 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career last year and was second on the team with 49 catches. He scored 19 total touchdowns and averaged a healthy 4.6-yards per attempt. Williams gained 460 yards and added 39 catches including five touchdown catches.
In the draft, the Packers added A.J. Dillon of Boston College in the second round. Dillon is a big back who could provide the offense with a third strong option with yet a different style of running.
This could be the most depth the Packers have had at the running back position in years.
Here is a look at the Packers running back depth chart as the team prepares to open training camp:
Likely Starter: Aaron Jones
This is a big year for Jones who will be in the last year of his rookie contract. Jones is a speedy runner with a great work ethic and the right attitude. He is a threat to score any time he gets his hands on the ball because he has the speed to break long runs. He also has a nose for the end zone.
Jones has worked hard to improve his blocking and receiving which were questions early in his career. He saw more playing time last season because of this improvement.
Jones needs to prove he can stay healthy for another season as 2019 was the first time in his career he was active for all 16 games. The Packers want to make sure they don’t overuse him so he is still effective late in the season and for the playoffs.
Projected Backups: Jamaal Williams, A.J. Dillon, Tyler Ervin
Jamaal Williams is a coach’s dream. He is smart, hard-working, a great teammate and always knows where to be on the field. In short, he does the little things right.
Williams has a different running style than Jones and is a stronger inside runner and seems to excel on sloppy or slow fields. Williams is the Packers most reliable blocker and receiver among the running backs and while he is not a game breaker, he finds ways to consistently get the job done.
Dillon was a workhorse back in college, carrying the ball 845 times in three seasons at Boston College. He scored 40 touchdowns and gained 4,382 rushing yards in college. He has the size and speed to be an effective back in the NFL. Scouts have called him a poor man’s Derrick Henry.
How quickly Dillon picks up his blocking and receiving assignments will be a big factor in determining how big a role he plays on the Packers in 2020. He is likely to become the team’s short-yardage back and score some touchdowns from close to the goal line. Those were carries Jones got in 2019.
Ervin’s primary role will be as a return specialist but he did have a role in the offense after signing with the Packers last December. Ervin has the speed and elusiveness to run jet sweeps and other specialty plays that can help keep opposing defenses on their feet. He may only get a handful of touches per game on offense, but he can certainly contribute to the offense with those touches, picking up chunks of yardage and key first downs.
Fighting for a Roster Spot: Dexter Williams, Damarea Crockett, Patrick Taylor
Dexter Williams was a sixth round pick for the Pack last season and he showed he has talent as a runner in the preseason. Williams struggled to pick up his pass blocking assignments and receiving routes and that kept him off the field for most of his rookie campaign. His chances to make the team will revolve around how much improvement he shows in those areas.
Crockett spent the second half of the 2019 season on the Packers practice squad after spending time with the Texans and Raiders last season. The former Missouri star knows the Packers offense which will help him in camp. Barring injuries to players ahead of him, he may end up on the practice squad again.
Patrick Taylor missed most of his senior year at Memphis with a foot injury. The injury was a big reason he went undrafted this season. Taylor gained 1,122 yards and scored 16 touchdowns as a junior. He has good size at 6’2” and 217 pounds and is looking for a chance to show the coaching staff what he can do.
Fullbacks: Elijah Wellman, Jordan Jones
It is not clear if the Packers will keep a traditional fullback on the roster or if they end up utilizing tight ends like Marcedes Lewis, Jace Sternberger or Josiah Deguara as H-backs to fill that role.
Wellman is 6’2” and 241-pounds. He spent the last few seasons with Washington but did not appear in a regular season game. His strong suit is blocking and that is what he’ll need to do well to earn a spot on the roster or the practice squad.
Jones has a bit more promise as a receiver, something the Packers want from their fullbacks. He caught 28 passes for 497 yards and four touchdowns at Prairie View A&M last season and was named first-team All-SWAC for his efforts.
Barring injuries, the Packers should have an outstanding set of runners for 2020. Each of the top three have a specific skill set and can make plays to keep the chains moving. They should compliment each other with Jones being the top runner and outside threat, Williams more of an inside runner and receiver and Dillon picking up tough yards in goal line and short-yardage situations. Ervin will have several plays designed to get him into space to keep defenses honest.
It is not clear if the Packers will include a true fullback on their roster this year or go more with H-backs. The truncated offseason and preseason will make it tougher for new players to make the roster this year.
Overall, this should be a the deepest and most dangerous group of running backs the Packers have had in quite some time.
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