How the Packers Should Use RB Aaron Jones
In an ideal world, the Packers wouldn’t have a number one running back. They would just use both as the situation calls for it. The skillsets are different enough between Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones that you can justify using them together throughout the game.
What we know about Mike McCarthy shows that probably won’t happen. He’s not been great at splitting up carries and playing time among his backs.
To that point, Jamaal Williams has gotten the ball a lot – 27 percent of the Packers’ offensive plays they’ve run so far this season have gone to Williams. I don’t understand why the number’s so high. It’s a combination of the carries he’s got and the targets he’s received in the passing game. Williams is a reliable, good, solid player. Giving him the ball that much seems unnecessary.
What do the Packers have at running back?
I’m not sure what you do with both Williams and Jones together, but there are roles available for both. Here’s what we know about the running backs the Packers have so far:
Jamaal Williams gets the ball a lot, but he is by far their best pass blocker. He’s been a tremendous blocker, in fact. As a runner, he gets what’s there and doesn’t make very many mistakes.
Ty Montgomery does good things when the Packers actually use him… which is not very often. A disappointing amount, in fact. He’s improved as a pass blocker, and he’s a better runner than people give him credit for.
Then you’ve got Aaron Jones. I’m still not convinced the Packers are the best offense for Jones just because Mike McCarthy doesn’t seem to understand how to use backs that have a non-traditional skillset.
I say non-traditional because I’m calling ‘traditional’ something that was only relevant as of about 2007 to 2012 or so. Those were the last seasons when you could have a single running back taking all of a team’s carries and having one lead guy who does all your duties.
I think that’s what McCarthy wants to do with his running backs, but in this current NFL you can’t. He’s caught between these two eras of running back usage and can’t figure out how to get into that second era where the Packers need to be.
Why Aaron Jones is the perfect back for today’s NFL
Jones is the perfect guy for that new era. He’s an Alvin Kamara-type. He tests athletically very similar to Kamara and can do a lot of the things Kamara does for the Saints. Jones is explosive, but I wonder if he’s a little like a top-secret weapon.
Have you ever seen these superhero movies where there’s an ultra, top-secret weapon? Some random cannon fodder or enemy finds the weapon and tries to use it. He picks it up, tries to use it and ends up blowing himself up. The hero then comes along and looks at the smoking pair of boots that belonged to the villain. He picks up the weapon and shows the world what it does when it’s in the hands of someone who knows how to use it.
That’s what Aaron Jones feels like in Mike McCarthy’s hands – a weapon that McCarthy doesn’t quite know how to use.
There are good examples of what the Packers can do with him. Look at the Dallas game from 2017, where Jones was phenomenal and rushed for over 100 yards on just 19 carries. He ripped off 5, 10, 15 yards all the time and affected the game in ways when he didn’t have the ball in his hands.
Early in the fourth quarter, Jordy Nelson scored a touchdown coming out of the slot on a play-action play where Jones faked a run off right tackle. The entire defense was so concerned about Jones that they forgot to cover Nelson, and he walks into the end zone as Aaron Rodgers finds him for an easy touchdown.
That’s what a guy like Aaron Jones can do for the Packers offense. It was tantalizing, because as it turned out, that was the only game where we got a true look at both Rodgers and Jones together.
I’m hoping to see something like that when Jones gets back to full strength. It may take a couple weeks for Jones to get back to full strength, but it’ll be interesting to see how the Packers will use him.