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Aaron Jones Should Be Packers Starting Running Back

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has the fortunate problem of deciding who to enter the 2018 season with as starting running back. 

After veteran Ty Montgomery started the season and played well until injuries ended his season early, rookies Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams were forced into action and both were impressive.

All three should be back healthy in 2018 and running back is not among one of the team's bigger needs so I don't expect a lot of movement at the position during this offseason.  

Montgomery represents the most versatile option with his experience as a wide receiver and creating match up issues for defenses. 

Jones stepped in after Montgomery suffered a rib injury against the Dallas Cowboys early in 2017 and immediately flashed.  Jones took over the starting role until he suffered an injury shortly thereafter.

When Williams had to replace Jones in mid-November, he started off slowly but found his groove and ended the season as the starter.  Williams finished with four rushing touchdowns (tying Jones) and two receiving scores as well.  He found the end zone in three-straight games.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy's tendency is to stick with who the hot hand was the previous season, which was Williams, even if it was only because of an injury.  But that's not what he should do this season.

Aaron Jones is far and away the Packers' best option at running back and he should be the unquestioned starter.

Jones is still facing possible charges from a traffic stop last October when he admitted to smoking marijuana and was speeding.  Those charges could result in a suspension from the NFL.  Regardless, Jones is still the man in the Green Bay backfield.

Jones had 448 rushing yards last season on just 81 carries.  Part of that efficiency was thanks to six runs of 20+ yards, which was 11th-best in the NFL.  That's more 20-yard runs than the likes of Devonta Freeman, Ezekiel Elliott, Jordan Howard, Jay Ajayi, Le'Veon Bell and Leonard Fournette, to name a few.

Upon returning from an MCL injury, Jones took his first carry in overtime against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the house for a game-winning score.  That kind of home run potential is why the Packers have to ride with Jones.

Another factor is what could potentially happen with receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.  If one or both are moved, Montgomery may be moved back to receiver or to a role that's not purely a running back.  That would leave Jones and Williams as the primary backs.

Assuming a healthy Aaron Rodgers in 2018, Jones would help the offense start off with a bang if he returns to form right out of the gate.  Back when Eddie Lacy was Green Bay's starting back, there was always the chance that he could have a great game and go off, but Jones has the potential to be a 1,500+ yard back.

The Packers haven't had that type of back since the days of Ahman Green.  If McCarthy is truly committed to putting his best players on the field, Jones represents that at running back. 

-- Jason is a freelance writer and has been on staff since 2012.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (53) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Cubbygold's picture

I think GB needs to embrace the talent they have and rotate RBs to keep them fresh and as healthy as possible. Come playoff time, they can ride their best back.

TheVOR's picture

People keep insisting we have this "pool" of running backs. We don't in fact have a single proven legitimate NFL running back on the entire roster. AJ is clearly the best running back on the roster, but 2 knee injuries in the later part of the season is troublesome at best, and disastrous when relied upon. Williams is a project, you can't teach field vision, you either have it, or you don't. Speed camp won't fix his issues. He "just a guy". Montgomery in typical Ted Thompson evaluation of players, is yet another oft injured football player. They should keep Aaron Jones in a rotation, but they need to keep drafting running back. If they do, Williams won't remain on the team because he's just not that good. Montgomery needs to go, he can't stay healthy. GB needs to continue drafting RB's.. We don't have a bell cow on the roster..

lou's picture

"Williams is not that good", you have to be joking. He was the #2 back all preseason and for the first quarter of the regular season because;

1. He obviously mastered the offense quickly and it showed when he took over the job due to injuries and had no busted plays or penalties.
2. He was the best blocking back during camp and regular season.
3. He could make first downs in short yardage, even in shape Eddie had a tough time doing this as did Kuhn who everyone loved.
4. He was durable and stayed on the field and held on to the ball.
5. Even with average speed he had a couple of long TD's as a receiver.

"Just a guy" doesn't fit 1-4 as a rookie, all are valuable traits as a RB, first year or veteran.

I agree with your assesment that Jones is a natural RB and I have concerns over the MCL's as well but being a "splash player" is sorely needed in any NFL offense and Jones talent is on display whenever in the lineup.

The guy I feel sorry for is Mays, he had the worst "performance line" in history for a rookie, 4 carries for 1 yard with 2 fumbles and 3 passes caught for 0 yards. No one knows what he can do but he will get another chance.

The TKstinator's picture

I must admit I miss the 80’s and 90’s when the halfback was the star of the show and carried 300+ times for over 1,000 yards. I think the key variable is durability; it’s harder than ever to stay healthy when facing the assassins that populate defenses nowadays.
GB has 3 pretty good backs. Annoint one as the lead back if you wish, but I’d wager they’ll all contribute.

Nick Perry's picture

Jones is explosive. Every time he broke through the front seven you had a feeling he could run away from anyone. I have serious doubts though that Jones could handle 20 plus carries a game for any extended period of time though. But what he did against Dallas with Rodgers was pretty amazing.

Williams scared me a bit in what I saw in his first few games. He seemed to just run up the rear end of the O-Linemen in front of him for a 1.5 yards and a cloud of dust. But once he got a few carries under his belt he really took off. The rep he had coming out was he was a pretty powerful back who always seemed to fall forward for that extra yard or two which proved to be absolutely true.

THIS is where McCarthy takes a page from the Bill Belichick playbook and uses BOTH of them depending on the opponent. Then use Montgomery all over the field like the Pats did with Dion Lewis. Line him up wide, in the slot, or in the backfield. Just get the PLAY MAKERS on the field at the same time and good things will follow.

cuervo's picture

"THIS is where McCarthy takes a page from the Bill Belichick playbook and uses BOTH of them depending on the opponent."

MM has never had the inclination to do that in the 10+ years he's been here. I hope you're right and he finally figures it out this year.

Tundraboy's picture

God I hope so. Nothing to hold back now. I like our chances a lot more with Rodgers and Philbin with more weapons than before. Just need that deep WR and TE in FA. ((And a Defense of course)

RCPackerFan's picture

Jones to me is the best RB among the group. His vision and ability to change directions is the best on the team. I like Williams and Montgomery, but Jones I think could be special. On a number of Williams runs it appeared that he could have had bigger runs had he made a cut. Jones was able to find those cutbacks.

Jones is also a great receiver and I think could be used a ton more in the passing game.

That all being said watching the Eagles offense I really like how they rotate their RBs in and out. I’d like to see GB do that more often. One it keeps the RBs fresh. Which should help keeping them healthy for the whole year.

I can’t wait to see Jones and Williams in year 2.

Bearmeat's picture

Rotating the backs is the way to go, but you've GOT to get Jones at least 10 touches a game someway, somehow. I'd argue the same for Monty.

Ideally, IMO you move Monty back to slot WR/hybrid #2 (opposite Jordy in 10 personnel), and pair him with Jones. Where's the ball going? No one knows. heheheh.

RCPackerFan's picture

I completely agree!

I like Montgomery as a RB/WR tweener. Use him like the Saints use Kamara.
I don't want to move him back to the WR position exclusively. But using him as a tweener they can create a lot of mismatches.

I love the idea of playing Jones, Montgomery and Cobb together. They could create a lot of different looks with any of them lining up in the backfield, spread out and/or motioning out. My hope is that they spend some of the offseason scheming ways to create some confusion for defenses. That to me should be a goal for the offense this offseason.

Bearmeat's picture

I'm kind of "meh" on that formation with Cobb. In my opinion, Cobb is the odd man out - assuming you extend Jordy and effectively cut his pay in half. There are too many slot WRs on this team already. Adding Monty to that list without moving on from Cobb is IMO the same as benching Monty.

My idea is that:

1. Jordy replaces Cobb
2. Cobb is cut.
3. Monty becomes slot WR #2 in 10 personnel
4. Jones/Williams split the backfield.

This also assumes we get a FA WR with speed on the outside to pair with Adams.

RCPackerFan's picture

Thats where we differ. I keep both Cobb and Nelson. I brought up in an article yesterday of a way to look at how they could be keeping all 3 high priced WR's.

I think we are going to see a different looking offense this year. McCarthy brought up rebuilding the offense from the ground up. With the addition of Philbin, I think we will start to see more creativity in the offense. With guys like Montgomery and Cobb, they can do so many different things with them, and can get very creative with how they use them.
I don't think we will see the WR's lining up strictly at Outside or Slot. I think we will see them doing more trips formations and various formations then before. More motion also. I think they will do more things to get WR's open more schematically.

Now, I would like to see them add a WR with speed. But I don't expect them to do that via FA. To be honest I have no idea what to expect from Gutekunst. Maybe he will. I'm guessing they will probably draft a guy. But again, I have no idea what to expect from Gutey.

fthisJack's picture

i would say extend Nelson and if Cobb won't take a pay cut, let him walk. too much money invested in WR that are not that productive.

RCPackerFan's picture

They were plenty productive when Rodgers was the QB.

The problem was Hundley was terrible. He made people worse, not better.

Bearmeat's picture

Do you remember that write up on Jordy right after the season? He can't separate anymore, and Cobb is even worse.

They aren't anything more than average WRs anymore, RC. I think your fan goggles blinding you again. Sparkle pony. :P

ironman3169's picture

Nelson had 6 TD’s in 5 games before Rodgers went down. That’s chemistry.
I recall a phrase from Vikings fans that went “what does Chris Carter do? Catches touchdowns!”
That’s why you keep Jordy.

Bearmeat's picture

I agree completely. Jordy is totally worth keeping. But not at 9.5 million. He's worth half of that here and less than half of that elsewhere.

EdsLaces's picture

You're totally right about Monty replacing either Cobb or mayyybe Jordy? I just think Jordy is too good no matter how old he is...

Bearmeat's picture

At this point, I think Jordy is an average NFL WR whom looks better because of Rodgers. Sadly, Father time is undefeated.

Tundraboy's picture

I'm not opposed. Bear, but Jordy's got something left,
along with the veteran intangibles we absolutely need for the postseason.

John Kirk's picture

Aaron Jones is the best back since Ahman Green. He flies through holes and is a homerun threat we haven't had since Ahman. A highly intelligent guy who just gets it. He's the best draft choice since Aaron Rodgers, and that Aaron loves him.

Surprisingly, 33 was not good in the passing game which which is where I thought he'd really excel. When/if he figures that out we've got our LeVeon Bell/David Johnson.

Let's hope he stays off the Columbian Maple Leaf. He's got to be out at least a game like Datone, and Geronimo before him.

dobber's picture

If you follow the axiom of getting your best playmakers on the field, then there's no real way to argue with the title of this piece.

Bearmeat's picture

I toyed with the snarky response: "Aaron Jones is the Lead Back on the Green Bay Packers. Also, water is wet." :D

Handsback's picture

I don't agree that Jones should be the starting RB. They have the off-season to determine that and Monty made a beliver out of me by winning those 3rd and 1 runs.
I don't think Green Bay needs to look at RBs during the draft (unless the kid from Penn St. slips to them in the first round) and another year of in the system will provide improvement all around.

Savage57's picture

The reference to Ahman Green was spot on. Jones has leg action that looks eerily similar to Green's. I love his burst and evasiveness, something missing from Green Bay backs for a long time.

The Packers have something in Jones. Williams is a guy who'll be good at spelling him. Ty Monty is the wild card in the mix. Can he recall that +5 YPC average and do so while staying healthy enough to be a reliable option or someone the team can only count on for 50% of games.

mrtundra's picture

I think the Packers will draft a RB. We'll have a better look at who gets prioritized in camp and in OTAs and once Philbin gets his hands on them.

EdsLaces's picture

I prefer Williams because he seems to be the toughest, but that's just me ..

nostradanus's picture

They will all rotate so the point really is mute.
Williams is the hammer and has proved to be the better pass-blocker of the three.
Montgomery will be used in a variety of roles RB-KR-Slot WR-Screens.
Jones is explosive and will get plenty of touches, though with MCL sprains to both knees and shaky pass-blocking he has to prove he can stay on the field and not be the liability that gets Rodgers creamed. He most likely will have a one game suspension from the weed arrest.
The triple headed monster is a good problem to have.

Spock's picture

I just hope the RB's get their carries! I don't care who gets "designated" the starter, use them all. I also don't get the perceived need some people have to "change" Monty to a WR designation. He's a Swiss army knife type player; use him wherever he best matches up with that weeks opponent, doesn't matter what position you call him!

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I agree on Monty--he's awfully stocky to just be at WR. Swiss Army knives are valuable in this league.

But I do care who is featured, and that must be Jones. It isn't even close.

4thand1's picture

"Jones has the potential to be a 1,500+ yard back". There you go, getting everyone's hopes up,lol. MM and having a championship QB and I'm gonna ride him mentality, won't let this happen. If a RB has 20 touches a game, I'll be shocked.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture


Jones is clearly the starter, but riding him to 1500 yards is idiotic. Feature him, but don't wear him down--he's not exactly Christian Okoye.

Williams and Montgomery should average about 8 carries and 5 catches between them. Keep the bellcow fresh and healthy.

John Kirk's picture

I think Aaron Jones is going to get it more than some would expect.

There's a reason we haven't ridden the running game with 12 at QB. Why would we when the gap between having it in his hands vs. the likes of Brandon Jackson, James Starks, Eddie Lacy was significant? Now, we have a guy who it makes sense to give it to where the gap is much less great. Plus, our QB loves him. That matters as we've seen with guys like Janis.

Philbin is going to see Jones jumping off the tape. The org is going to want to protect 12 more and more as he ages and his cap charge becomes more significant and you do that by handing to another avenue that can help you win.

In a way, our offensive approach has been single minded ala draft and develop. Time to open the O to a multi pronged approach much like our finally expanding on draft and develop to include other avenues.

If we can get a TE and some speed mixed with ability at WR this could be more fun than 2011.

fthisJack's picture

i expect MM to go with Williams because he's the better pass blocker and doesn't fumble. he will get the majority of the work and it will PI$$ me off totally that Jones is not getting enough carries! grrrr.

snaus's picture

I'd like to see an even split. Williams is a throwback in the Ryan Grant mold. He doesn't fumble and is a great pass protector. Jones is at his best as a home run threat and change of pace, a la Jerick McKinnon. Give him 10-12 carries a game with Williams getting 10. Use Ty like James White.

DD's picture

Read my post. MM, we're doomed.

Since '61's picture

The Packers situation at Rb is a good problem to have. It's not a matter of who is the starter but how they make use of the talents they have at RB. To me, I would tire out the defense with Jones, build a lead and then pound them with Williams to chew up the clock and protect the lead. Monty can be used like Cobb, a few carries and out of the backfield or the slot in the passing game.
The Packers need to stabilize the right side of the OL to make this happen so that should be the priority in the off-season along with a TE and a backup QB. Thanks, Since '61

worztik's picture

We need a TE game changer ‘61... as you said!!!

Tundraboy's picture

Or at least someone who can actually make game changing plays every other week,and be a threat every game.

Royalty Free GM's picture

Too early to decide anything. Let them fight for it. Competition is good for the team.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Too early? Their YPC isn't close. The vision and explosion aren't close. Jones is a threat every time he gets the ball, and that forces the defense to account for him--miss on a blitz and you're doomed.

Jones is the starter. Hands down. We're lucky to have him.

snaus's picture

YPC isn't the only factor. Jones is the more natural zone runner, but Williams is a better receiver, much better pass blocker, and is better at protecting the ball. It's a nice two-headed monster to have for Rodgers.

Tundraboy's picture

Now let's work them further into the game plan. Look forward to Philbin's ideas. Very excited at the possibilities. Just hope MM doesn't bumble his way into using players haphazardly over the season.

Colin_C's picture

Jones is clearly the best RB they have right now carrying the ball, but I do expect Williams to come back faster next year. He'll never be a burner, make you miss kind of guy, but everything I've heard about him says he's incredibly hard working, and both he and MM agreed he needs more speed. I'll be eager to see him next preseason. I'd be happy to roll again with the current group of backs, but wouldn't mind seeing one drafted late as well.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Jones is easily our best back. It isn't close. Anything remotely close to an even timeshare would be crazy.

Start Jones, with Williams as the solid backup getting 5-7 carries a game, since Jones isn't built for 25-carry pounding. Use Montgomery as an ideal 3rd down back who can carry, block, catch out of the backfield, or even split out wide. They all have a role.

But Jones is absolutely the man. No question.

Tundraboy's picture

Agree. It's pretty apparent.

John Kirk's picture

Those who can't see this need to look at the Carolina game. Ben Fennell, I believe, had a Twitter breakdown of the two in that game. It literally looks like Williams is in slo mo when compared to Aaron Jones. Jones has incredible vision and balance and has wiggle. Williams offers none of those things.

JDK52's picture

You're simply ignoring pass blocking? After the way the 2017 season turned out?? I really like Jones, too, but please don't get so carried away calling him unequivocally the starter when he hasn't proven he can legitimately protect Rodgers.

ironman3169's picture

Then quit calling plays in which Jones is expected to pass block.

JDK52's picture

"Then quit calling plays in which Jones is expected to pass block."

That's the best way to have every running play blown up behind the LOS. "oh, look, Jones is in the huddle. Run play, no way Rodgers throws it cuz we know he never throws it with Jones back there."

John Kirk's picture

I never said he was the starter. He's the best we have had in a long long time and I think he's going to get it more than some expect.

Pass blocking is important for sure but Jones can learn that. He had some miscues but wasn't abysmal.

Jamaal Williams was much better with Hundley and loaded boxes which changed my opinion from bust to pretty good. That's the issue, though. We have way too many Jamaal Williams types on this roster. JW30 offers solid unspectacular play and upside. No speed which he'll never have. No vision. No wiggle. A try hard run through guys type. We need some greatness and Jones is the one who has the best chance if realizing it.

For my tastes, a trade back for Sony Michel would excite me. Rotating Jones and Michel would be dynamic on paper. I don't think we're set at RB due to injury issues with all 3 of 30, 33 and 88. Is Mays anything but a draft bio tease? If he's not and Philbin is going to utilize 88 more as a WR we need another RB and not another JAG even more.

bodei1newbie1's picture

i have one question is the full back rip still in the dog house with mccarthy and mays as well i think he should just get over it and play both of them next season (if mays make the team) what is wrong with mccarthy ?

DD's picture

You're all wrong. MM and his game plan and boring, predictable schemes won't allow our gem running backs to shine. MM will pass, pass, pass, with an occasional predictable run for a lose. We have Rodgers to pass i know, but MM has never really utilized many running backs well in games. MM is our achilles!! Truth be told.

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