The Packers struggled for years to find a consistent running game to compliment future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers. They seem to have found their answer in Aaron Jones. Jones ended his third season in the NFL leading the league in rushing touchdowns (16) and ran for 1,000+ yards for the first time in his career. Given the inconsistent nature of Green Bay’s running game in the past, many fans are still weary of Jones and the run game. Here we analyze three reasons why Aaron Jones is just getting started.
#1- Work Load
Aaron Jones played college ball at UTEP in Conference USA. In his three full seasons (he only played two games in his third year), he averaged 208 rushing attempts per season. In these three seasons, he averaged 1,301 yards. These two numbers translated to 6.8 yards per attempt.
With the Packers, Jones is being used very similarly to the way he was used in college. In his three NFL seasons, Jones has averaged 5.0 yards per attempt, including the 2018 season when he led the NFL with 5.5 Y/A. In 2019, Jones eclipsed 200 rushing attempts for the first time in his professional career. Jamaal Williams proved to be a suitable backup, getting 107 carries last season.
What all this means for Aaron Jones is that he is not in any danger of being overworked. Wisconsin fans especially remember Ron Dayne and how his legs gave out once he reached the NFL. Dayne not only set the NCAA rushing yards record, but also holds the record for rushing attempts (1,220). By the time he reached the pros, his body did not have much more to give and he had a pretty mediocre career.
Jones was not overused in college, and he is not being overworked with the Packers. In fact, Jones ranked only 15th in the NFL in total rushing attempts in 2019. The 14 players ahead of him ran the ball over 240 times. While there may come a time for Jones to do that in a season, at least he will not have as many miles on his legs when it happens.
#2- Consistent Improvement
One of the best indicators of how good a player can be is how consistently they improve from year to year. In 2017, Jones played 12 games (4 starts) and gained 448 yards on 81 attempts. In 2018, Jones played 12 games again (8 starts) and gained 778 yards on 133 attempts. Then in 2019, Jones started all 16 games and gained 1,084 yards on 236 attempts.
In addition, Jones has doubled his number of rushing touchdowns every year. In 2017, he had 4 rushing touchdowns; 8 in 2018; and a league-leading 16 in 2019. If Jones can continue to keep up his consistent improvement on a year-to-year basis, the rest of the NFL is going to be in trouble.
#3- Aaron Rodgers
An offense very rarely can be successful if it is one-dimensional. For years, Packers’s fans have longed for a running back who can take the pressure off of Aaron Rodgers. Aaron Jones does that, but the future Hall of Famer’s play can also help Jones. Defenses have to respect Jones enough to keep a defender or two up near the line. This allows more opportunities for Rodgers to find open receivers. At the same time, defenses also have to be weary of the passing game, which in turn can create more opportunities for Jones. The perfect run-pass balance can wreck havoc on opponents and keep them off balance.
In addition, Rodgers’ accuracy when under pressure allows Jones to receive short passes after most defenders have passed him by on their way to Rodgers. In 2019, Jones caught 49 passes for 474 yards and 3 more touchdowns. Clearly, he is one of Rodgers’ most trusted targets.
If you tie in Rodgers’ trust for Jones and his willingness to get him the ball with Jones’s own work ethic and consistency, it’s pretty clear that the best is yet to come.