Aaron Jones is More Than a RB in LaFleur's Offense

With Aaron Jones' skill-set, he is much more than just a running back in Matt LaFleur's offensive system.

Look, I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I thought Aaron Jones was going to be re-signed because I didn't. Like at all. My thought process was similar to that of just about everyone else's in that I didn't think that the Green Bay Packers were going to pay top-dollar for a running back--especially with the salary cap crunch that they find themselves in.
 
It's no secret that in today's NFL, paying a running back isn't a prerequisite for success. In fact, in most circles, it's frowned upon. 
 
Take a look back at many of the recent Super Bowl winners; their running back with the most carries that season barely registers on the cap hit radar. And of the six highest-paid running backs in 2020, all six of those teams missed the playoffs.
 
However, when it comes to Aaron Jones and what he brings to this Green Bay Packers offense, he is much more than just a running back. He is a weapon under Matt LaFleur.
 
Of course, as a ball carrier, Jones is a big play waiting to happen, averaging over five yards per carry the last two seasons with over 2,200 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns. Yet, as impressive as those numbers are, Jones provides much more to this offense.
 
Under LaFleur, the Green Bay Packers are striving for that "illusion of complexity," as he calls it. This essentially means that he wants different plays to begin similarly and to be able to run the same play from a variety of personnel. Pre-snap motion is also a key aspect of this as well. 
 
To put it simply, Jones tailor-made for this type of system. His versatility and ability as a pass-catcher allows LaFleur to move him around the formation, either beginning in the slot or out wide right out of the huddle, or motioning there pre-snap. As you can imagine, this creates matchup problems for defenses.
 
This makes Jones an important part of the passing game as well. Over the last two years under LaFleur, he has over 800 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Jones was also the second most targeted player in the passing game this past season, behind only Davante Adams.
 
With his ability to affect both the running and passing games to such a high degree, even if Jones doesn't touch the ball, he's helping to create for his teammates because he does draw so much attention. 
 
"He’s just a guy that just continues to get better and better as the season goes along," said LaFleur before the Titans game via the Wisconsin State Journal. "And it’s not always in the production, either. It’s (in) everything he does — the way he approached the daily grind, the preparation, what he does when he’s not getting the ball. He is the epitome of a team player. And we sure are lucky to have a guy as dynamic as he is.”  

An excellent example of this was from the 2019 season when the Green Bay Packers' offense wasn't exactly firing on all cylinders. However, when Jones was on the field that year, the Packers ranked third in Expected Points Per Play, trailing only Kansas City and Baltimore. But when he was on the sidelines, Green Bay ranked 29th.
 
This was literally an entirely different offense when he was on the field versus when he wasn't. Jones has that kind of impact.
 
Ultimately, only time will tell if this was the right decision or not. But the Green Bay Packers didn't hand out a four-year deal to just a running back. Jones is a weapon and a playmaker in this offense with all that he can do. 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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6 points

Comments (36)

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ricky's picture

March 15, 2021 at 11:11 am

Here is a breakdown of Jones' new contract. Very team friendly, as they can cut him with minimal dead money in two years. So, if there is a decline, he'll be gone. I wouldn't be surprised if the Packers drafted his expected replacement in the middle rounds this year. This could also be an indication that the Packers are going to be loading up for a really serious run at the SB this year- and "all in" year. Especially if the team signs a veteran interior defensive lineman on a one year contract in FA.

https://www.profootballnetwork.com/aaron-jones-contract-details-salary-b...

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murf7777's picture

March 15, 2021 at 11:33 am

Thanks for the info ricky. I think 6.5 in dead money in year three isn’t chump change thou. Let’s hope he still performing at a high level without any major injuries by than and they want to keep him.

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MarkinMadison's picture

March 15, 2021 at 01:22 pm

The breakdown still lacks a lot of key details, like base salary this year and cap hit this year (or any other year on those two items). Too soon.

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murf7777's picture

March 15, 2021 at 11:29 am

Good point Paul. I was thinking they would be able to get that same type of illusion from James White or Duke Johnson Jr. for a fragment of the price, except neither have the running ability of Jones as you state in this article.

I really wanted these dollars used a different way, like to create a stronger D or add an OT, but I have faith in the Packers to make the right choices.

If they restructure Z. Smith, Adams, and Arod we will than know they are “all in” to win the big one over the next two years. I’m not a big fan of “all in” but it looks like that is where we are heading.

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Swisch's picture

March 15, 2021 at 04:05 pm

It looks like the Packers are doing a good balance of "all in" and "preparing for the future."
It's a delicate balance, but when the team is coming off of consecutive 13-3 seasons that came only one game short of the Super Bowl, it seems like a good idea to put more emphasis on the present than usual.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 15, 2021 at 11:37 am

That’s pretty well stated, Paul. We didn’t think it could happen but Jones returns. There shouldn’t be any problem with this offense scoring 35 ppg, protecting the ball, and controlling the clock.....as long as there is good blocking. It looks like the Packer Plan is to put the league’s best offense on the field, and Jones is a good piece for doing that.

I’m not a cap wizard, and I don’t see how the combined cap hits of Rodgers, Adams, Bakhtiari and Jones are sustainable, IMO, we’re kind of going for broke in Gutekunst’s fourth year. If we win the Super Bowl, he’ll get an extension. If we come up short, I think there will be changes.

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flackcatcher's picture

March 15, 2021 at 03:05 pm

LH. Gutekunst will get his extension regardless of what happens this year. It looks like the Packers are trying to widen their playoff window by an couple of years. Or as long as Rodgers current contract. Beyond that, I only see three outcomes, and they all end the same way, with Rodgers gone, MLF not extended, and the team cuts most of their core players for a rebuild. The Packers as an organization are not simply built to go deep in debt. Done that in the 1980s, and will not do it again, not even for talent like Rodgers. Even if the Cap bounces back, the number of contracts vs the Cap doesn't match. Something going to have to give. This year, maybe 2023 if Ball can work the numbers. After that, it's Love's team. Father Time and Cap Man. They always win in the end.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

March 15, 2021 at 04:15 pm

I have to imagine, if Love has a strong PS showing, unless GB has another deep playoff run this is the last year for Rodgers. I don't see how they find ways to keep the current young stars like Alexander, Savage, Gary, Deguara, Jenkins, Dillon, Love (if he's the future QB), Tonyan, Sternberger, with Rodgers' contract, assuming Z and Davante both get their expected extensions, and assuming some of the other young OLs are going to also get extensions.

My worry is Rodgers' contract, plus cap moves made this year, are going to force us to walk away from current starters because they will be outside of our price range, which means continuing to build a lesser team around an aging QB.

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Fabio's picture

March 15, 2021 at 05:14 pm

Even with all the possible renovations / extensions that we will soon have to do (Adams? Rodgers? ...) I fear that we will not have the money to acquire FA to fill the holes in CB, ILB, OL, ST (if not someone low cost to depth).
So let's postpone everything to the draft once again ....
I keep saying that if we want to go with Rodgers (as with any aging Q - see Brady's example) we have to invest heavily in the D to make it elite. I am thrilled to have AJ back, but we could very well have replaced it with a slot receiver and spent that money on other needs.
And if Arod starts next season, then everything is under construction ..... for LOVE
Hopefully at the end of the season we will not be here to talk about the same problems again
However my faith will never collapse
Go Pack Go
Greetings from Italy

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Swisch's picture

March 15, 2021 at 04:20 pm

If Love turns out to be as good as the Packers expected, it seems fair all around for him to take over in a year or two, especially if the Packers win a Super Bowl.
In this scenario, Rodgers would leave Green Bay a champion and be a hero for Packers fans for the rest of his life.
With good feelings all around, he could still go to another team in the same way Brady did.
If anyone would understand the transition to Love, it would be Rodgers remembering how he was developed as a Packer.
If all goes well, Love will come in with good talent on both sides of the ball, built mainly on a foundation of good draft picks.
It seems we'd also have a significant amount of extra cash by not having Rodgers' contract.
Love would have a year or two to prove he's worth a hefty extension.

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Fabio's picture

March 15, 2021 at 05:25 pm

Hi Swisch
I would like to remind you that when Brady was in the Patriots they too, in the last years of his contract, were tight with his cost and invested in big D.
If Brady now plays well over 40 (and clearly not on the same salary) then Rodgers I think he can play at a high level for at least another 4 seasons, but Green Bay has to build a big D.
I personally will always take Rodgers on Love.
I'm afraid we'll only realize how good Arod was when he's gone.
In spite of everything I will be ready to cheer for Love too
Go Pack Go
Greetings from Italy

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Leatherhead's picture

March 15, 2021 at 05:21 pm

I'm not so sure that Gutekunst gets extended if we regress this year. It could happen, of course, but I wouldn't bet the farm on that.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 15, 2021 at 05:21 pm

I'm not so sure that Gutekunst gets extended if we regress this year. It could happen, of course, but I wouldn't bet the farm on that.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 15, 2021 at 05:21 pm

I'm not so sure that Gutekunst gets extended if we regress this year. It could happen, of course, but I wouldn't bet the farm on that.

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Coldworld's picture

March 15, 2021 at 06:01 pm

I think it’s very unlikely Gute goes anywhere after this year.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 15, 2021 at 09:32 pm

Agree. He still will have a year left on his deal.

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Coldworld's picture

March 15, 2021 at 06:00 pm

At some point the real conundrum is time and health. If Rodgers or Bakh decline or need to be replaced due to injury or retirement we will be, for a short period, at a huge cap disadvantage due to dead money. The solution is to develop talent behind them and be willing to move on while that is still on low wages ... easier said than done. The alternative is a major transition 3 to 4 years from now.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

March 15, 2021 at 01:18 pm

I'm just really happy Jones is back. He's the best RB we've had since Ahman Green. It was over a decade between Green and Jones. Rodgers isn't playing that long. If the Packers can give him proven weapons like Jones I think they have to do it.

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Packer_Fan's picture

March 15, 2021 at 01:23 pm

I think that LaFleur can used Jones even more in this offense. I like having Dillon and Jones in the backfield. Then motion Jones for a swing pass. You have a run play option. If it looks like Jones can get a good shot on beating his man, go to him. Otherwise let Dillon run. Two options that will give defense fits.

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CoachDino's picture

March 15, 2021 at 01:41 pm

In a traditional sense you are correct, his rec skills are above the norm, but then again, in the sense of how things are trending and how many more guys that play have these types of skills then in the past it's not nearly so special. I've been saying it for a while, the new trend will be the RB that could also be a stand alone slot rec. While AJones is a very good rec for a RB he is no where near that good.

Gainswell, Fenton, Kamura....

All that said, your point is dead on, its what makes him so valuable that you reach a bit for a RB like him.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 15, 2021 at 03:52 pm

Jones was 11th in receiving yards for RBs in 2020 and 7th in 2019. His yards/target is good, not outstanding. He is reasonably efficient at picking up first downs in the receiving role, though Jamaal, while less dynamic, was incredibly efficient with his pass catch rate and finding the first down sticks. Probably different usage.

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Coldworld's picture

March 15, 2021 at 06:05 pm

To me it’s not so much the passing aspect but the varying nature of what needs to be defended if Jones is in the line up. Teams plan for him. Add in Dillon and they have a totally different problem. Get both involved in the air and dual sets could give opponents fits.

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Swisch's picture

March 15, 2021 at 01:59 pm

It seems as though Aaron Jones as a running back has many of the qualities of a slot receiver:
On third down and short yardage, he can make a tough catch in traffic to pick up a first down; plus, if he has a little room to maneuver, he can turn a short catch into a long gain with shifty and slippery evasiveness in the open field.
I'd still like to draft a slot receiver type such as Cole Beasley or Cooper Kupp, but such a new guy may take a year or two to develop individually and to adapt to our offense.
In the meantime, Jones does much to cover that need for a tough and elusive receiver to move the chains.

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

March 15, 2021 at 02:51 pm

Perhaps not the most important part of this but another positive is that we don't have to train someone new in the offense. His replacement would have had to develop a connection with QB1 as well. This alone makes the early season games more likely to be wins as the offense doesn't miss a beat.

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BartySmith76's picture

March 15, 2021 at 03:06 pm

Love having a talent like Aaron Jones on the roster, but this seems like a bad move. While I agree A-Jones has explosive potential, I don't think he is ultimately the best compliment to our offense. We need a power back that can run through the line, not around it. With a back like Jones, the defense doesn't have to change personell and can basically play as if we were going to pass, which is generally a safe bet. I guess there must be something in Dillon they don't like, but i would have definitely preferred a Dillon/Williams combo and sepnt the money on ILB and O-line. I guess I don't get the plan. How does this move win us a Superbowl?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 15, 2021 at 03:58 pm

I am not following you. Jones is the quintessential dual-threat back in that he is a dynamic runner or do damage as a receiver. It isn't that the defense has to change personnel with Jones, it is that they don't know which personnel to use in the first place.

The one-dimensional back is Dillon, though his hands themselves look fine. Still, I don't see him running any routes. He just leaks out. His pass blocking is spotty. When Dillon is on the field, it is a run most likely. He needs to work on these issues.

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HankScorpio's picture

March 15, 2021 at 04:46 pm

Polishing up the pass blocking and route running is often something that starts when a rook hits his first TC and continues on for a couple of years. I think Dillon will be fine. He might not run downfield routes as well as Jones but he's got the size to block better than Jones.

Just a really nice duo with traits that compliment each other nicely.

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canadapacker's picture

March 15, 2021 at 06:12 pm

Totally agree with the pass blocking upgrades happen during year 2 - Jones wasnt that good at the start either. I am looking forward to having both on the field as kind of a fullback look. But I think that a full training camp is going to be really important this year. Because we had such an experienced team last year - we profited from minimal practice versus some of our competition. Since they expect people to be mostly vaccinated by the end of May - maybe we will have some in person OTA's post draft. It is very very important for us to see what we have in Love. That is a roster spot that was not filled last year. Didnt hurt us with the Covid extra roster spots but he didnt get a real feel for playing. I kind of disagree with those who think that we will pick a running back up this draft ( unless it is best player available). We have some on the roster and will see what happens with Ervin . Just think we need to load up on the defense and an OLine development player or 2.

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canadapacker's picture

March 15, 2021 at 08:13 pm

Now apparently we have both Lazard and Malik Taylor back in the receiver room - Adams, MVS Lazard Taylor St Brown - now all we need to do is add Tonyon to the tight end with Degura and Dafney - and we can focus on the Oline /Dline /linebacker position and of course the proverbial "best player available" - smells like a punter. And Ray Guys out there????

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BartySmith76's picture

March 16, 2021 at 04:52 pm

Defending against a power back like Dillon requires some big boys in the middle which sets up play action. With a back like Jones, the opponent can still stay in their nickle defense, in other words, it's the same personel group as you would have against the pass. Think about the NFC championship - we passed 6 straight times and couldn't score. The defense was posed to play the pass and didn't fear the run. That's where a back like Dillon opens up the play action. The difference is - do you want to trick your opponent or do you want to beat your opponent.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 15, 2021 at 03:44 pm

This running back/slot receiver thing......back in the day, we used to call that guy a wingback. You could shift him around and put him in motion and give him a handoff, pitch, or short pass. He was usually too quick for a linebacker to cover, but a hard guy for a DB to tackle. Short passes followed by long runs after catch.

3 points
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Minniman's picture

March 15, 2021 at 10:52 pm

In late breaking news, Corey Linsley to the Chargers for a 5yr $62.5M contract - joining Brian Bulaga.

Best of luck Corey, and thanks for the memories.

Sad to see you go, but it’s a tough year for decisions like this.

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Stroh's picture

March 15, 2021 at 11:12 pm

Jones is the 3rd choice among Packers opponents have to game plan for. He is behind both Rodgers and Adams and those 2 make Jones much better. His rushing stats, in particular yds per carry, are made possible by having Rodgers as his QB. Put him on a team with even an above average QB and his ypc is going to fall significantly into the average range among RB. Don't get me wrong he's very good, but both Rodgers and Adams make Jones stats soo much easier to come by.

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Rebecca's picture

March 16, 2021 at 03:03 pm

Which makes him worth keeping. Hypothetical and no way of verifying. What if Adrian Peterson had played with Rodgers, blah blah blah?

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Crankbait's picture

March 18, 2021 at 03:06 am

Aaron Jones disappeared in the big game last year. Packers need to develop Dylan next season, get a pass rush, and get their crap together with special teams.

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13TimeChamps's picture

March 18, 2021 at 12:08 pm

Bob Dylan? I think he might be just a tad bit old.

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