Packers to Continue With Committee Approach at Running Back

The Packers will continue to manage the workload of Josh Jacobs and company going forward.

During Matt LaFleur’s tenure as head coach of the Packers, the running back position has always had balance and rotation.

Led by Aaron Jones from LaFleur’s first season in 2019 through 2023, there has also been a solid second, and sometimes third option to take some of the burden off Jones, relieving him of carries during the season.

In 2019 it was Jamaal Williams and rookie Dexter Williams backing up Jones, with second-round pick A.J. Dillon taking the latter’s spot in 2020. Dillon would also be the eventual replacement for the former, who hit free agency in 2021.

There were times in most games, particularly in the regular season, when fans wondered where Jones had gone, whether LaFleur had forgotten about him, as multiple drives were led by Williams or Dillon.

This was part of the Packers’ plan to keep Jones healthy throughout the regular season, and ensure he still had plenty left in the tank by the time the playoffs arrived.

It worked, allowing him to stay productive not only for an entire season, but also as his career wore on and Jones got into his late twenties, usually a precarious age for running backs.

While other backs who enjoyed tremendous success as younger players fell by the wayside as they aged, such as Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley, Jones has continued to be valuable, quality back even as he approaches age 30.

He may have been upset with how things ended in Green Bay, but their careful handling of Jones’ workload allowed him to continue working and earning, now in Minnesota, while other backs he came up with are long out of the league.

With Josh Jacobs brought in to replace Jones as the Packers’ lead back, there were questions over whether this cautious approach would continue, or if Jacobs would be anointed the true lead back and carry the load going forward.

Jones was an injury-prone back, which could in theory have been the primary reason for managing his workload. Jacobs on the other hand was the bellcow with the Raiders, so may be more suited to that role than his predecessor ever was.

But after Brian Gutekunst re-signed Dillon and drafted MarShawn Lloyd in the third round of the 2024 draft, it seemed to indicate the Packers would continue to mix up the backfield in an effort to keep their runners healthy and productive.

LaFleur essentially confirmed this at his latest media availability.

When asked about whether he wanted to keep a similar split of carries as he had done previously, or if Jacobs would be ‘the guy’, LaFleur said: “We’ll see. Philosophically, no matter who the runner is, we like to platoon those guys, whether it's two guys or three guys.”

He continued: “I just think it allows the running backs to stay fresh throughout the duration of the season, it’s a very violent position they play and some of those hits are high impact hits.

“I do think there’s a lot of benefit to having multiple runners. I think it lengthens their careers.”

On Jacobs, LaFleur added: “I do think he’s very capable of being a high volume feature back where he’s getting the bulk of the carries, but we’ll see how it plays out.”

Green Bay’s stable of backs is built in a similar way to the 2020 backfield, which was probably the strongest of the LaFleur era. Back then, it was one ‘lightning’ back in Jones, backed up by two ‘thunder’ runners in Williams and Dillon.

This year, there are two power backs in Jacobs and Dillon, although calling Jacobs simply a power back may be doing him a disservice. Lloyd adds the explosive change of pace element, but this time it will come from the bench, rather than being the primary setting.

Gutekunst rebuilt the running back room this offseason, once again giving LaFleur options and depth to get him through a long, grueling season which will hopefully end in February.

The names may have changed, but do not expect a vastly different approach to the management of the workload of Green Bay’s backs.

 

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Mark Oldacres is a sports writer from Birmingham, England and a Green Bay Packers fan. You can follow him on twitter at @MarkOldacres

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5 points
 

Comments (31)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
stockholder's picture

May 31, 2024 at 07:02 am

Manage? Or getting played?
Are we ready to go for a championship?
Or is this just for profit. $$$$$.
Jones wasn't injury prone.
We had OL troubles.
And if the guys up front don't block.
The RBs will be nursing something.
And Look how easy Wilson went down.

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HawkPacker's picture

May 31, 2024 at 08:48 am

Stock, I just love reading your commentary. From your poorly structured writing to your contrarian point of view which is normally the exact opposite of most Packer fans' way of thinking, I can't help but come back to these comments quite often just to see everyone's responses to your comments as well as the down votes.

You do keep these articles refreshing! Keep it up!

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 31, 2024 at 01:10 pm

At least he's stopped murdering the semicolon on a regular; basis.

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TKWorldWide's picture

May 31, 2024 at 05:06 pm

Everyone after 50 should get a regular semi colonoscopy.

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 31, 2024 at 06:45 pm

Is that when they put the camera in part of the way but not all the way?😲

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TKWorldWide's picture

May 31, 2024 at 11:01 pm

That’s what happened at mine…

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Duneslick's picture

May 31, 2024 at 10:39 am

Jones did have injury problems. Missed 6 games and parts of others. Many times was on a pitch count to keep him healthy

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jannes bjornson's picture

May 31, 2024 at 11:21 am

Wilson will be lucky to be placed on the P-squad. Not an elusive guy.

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TKWorldWide's picture

May 31, 2024 at 07:27 am

We need more bellcow!

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Cheezehead72's picture

May 31, 2024 at 07:33 am

MORE COWBELL!!!!!

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dobber's picture

May 31, 2024 at 08:28 am

Beat me to it!

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TKWorldWide's picture

May 31, 2024 at 08:55 am

Yes, that too!
THEE Bruce Dickinson demands it.

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T7Steve's picture

May 31, 2024 at 07:28 am

If they can keep him fresh with 15-20 touches a game, they can then let have 35 touches in the Super Bowl. Then he can rest till spring.

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Coldworld's picture

May 31, 2024 at 08:50 am

Right. Why kill your (on paper) best back by overloading him and at the same time reducing the diversity of the offense? The season is longer than back in the days when a bell cow was the paradigm. Three is no need to grind players down in regular season if the team can contend and much to be gained by using different players if you have genuine options. I think we do at RB.

What I’m less sure about with a lead back of the Jacobs type, as opposed to Jones, is the practice of one series switching. Jacobs needs snaps to get going (as will Dillon and probably Wilson). Jones didn’t and conceivably Lloyd won’t either. The pattern of RB usage is something I hope that we evaluate and consider evolving.

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T7Steve's picture

May 31, 2024 at 08:57 am

One or two series depends on success of the line blocking. They sometimes, when both Jones and Dillan were healthy, went by 1/4rs. That was sometime too much (I'd be begging for them to put Jones back in at times). I think it should be done per the game situations and who has the hot hand.

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GregC's picture

May 31, 2024 at 04:57 pm

This is kind of what happened with Aaron Jones last year, by accident, and it worked out great at the end of the season. He was fresh, and they could give him way more carries. Dillon being hurt factored into that as well, but the result was a much better rushing attack than they'd had all season.

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Cheezehead72's picture

May 31, 2024 at 07:33 am

With 17 game seasons it is important to be able to manage the workload of the RBs. It is also important to have younger RBs. Jacobs can take a pounding but it is not only injuries but also to keep the legs fresh and strong because strong legs are needed in the post season especially when the weather is bad. If Llyod is good having Jacobs, Dillon, and Llyod will be a good mixture and we will not need a bell cow but yes Jacobs if healthy will lead the Pack (pun intended).

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PatrickGB's picture

May 31, 2024 at 08:27 am

One long standing argument for having a bell cow running back is that some of them get stronger with more use. Yet it often leads to long term deterioration of their skills and a shorter career.

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dobber's picture

May 31, 2024 at 08:37 am

"Jones was an injury-prone back, "

RBs get hurt. It's one of the most injury-plagued positions in football and the nature of the beast. I'd argue that--especially considering he's not a big back--Jones hasn't done all that poorly on the injury front. He missed 6 last season, but none in 2022, 2 in 2021, 2 in 2020, and none in 2019. Given his age, I think he's done fine.

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GregC's picture

May 31, 2024 at 09:51 am

Agreed. The injury prone label never fit Jones. Last season was the first one that was really injury-plagued for him. Age probably had something to do with it, which is why I wanted another good RB brought in even if they had kept Jones.

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Cheezehead72's picture

May 31, 2024 at 12:49 pm

I do not disagree but he is three years older than Jacobs and as players age injuries tend to mount. I liked Jones but I agree that we needed a younger back.

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HawkPacker's picture

May 31, 2024 at 08:51 am

dobber, he is also very strong. We will miss him on the field as well as on the sidelines with his sunglasses and sombrero.

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LeotisHarris's picture

May 31, 2024 at 08:57 am

Gone are the days when our beloved Packers could load up Barty Smith like a mule in the hot sun and ride him all day *knowing* Eric Torkleson was champing at the bit to slash for 24 to 30 inches when needed. Distant Thunder and Heat Lightening.

I'm not an orthopedic surgeon, but it seems to me healthy mobility of the human knee joint is put at risk during the game of tackle football. I won't even approach the topic of soft tissue injuries. That said, it's good to have a few speedy fellas who can tote the rock, not fumble it, and pick up blitzing rushers as needed.

I'll move to make this a standing committee.

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NFLfan's picture

May 31, 2024 at 09:51 am

I'll second the motion-lol.

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Bitternotsour's picture

May 31, 2024 at 11:59 am

everytime you say "soft tissue injuries" I giggle like Beavis.

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 31, 2024 at 02:10 pm

No love for Terdell Middleton and his career 3.7 yards a carry?

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TKWorldWide's picture

May 31, 2024 at 05:08 pm

High lair!!

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NFLfan's picture

May 31, 2024 at 09:55 am

Jacobs is already injured and those hammys recur so committee it is.

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Leatherhead's picture

May 31, 2024 at 10:28 am

We're a long way away from anything that would require Jacobs to be 100%. Training camp starts in about two months, the first games that count aren't for about 100 days yet. Plenty of time. Plus, even if you're .500 by Thanksgiving, if everybody is healthy and playing well then you can make the playoffs.

Injury wise, I think we're ahead of where we were a year ago.

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SDPack's picture

May 31, 2024 at 12:32 pm

Jacobs will be the lead back and Marshawn Lloyd will be used as his primary back up to keep him fresh. Dillon will be the 3rd back in obvious passing situations as he can pass block and catch. I think this would be a nice use of the three. Eventually, after Jacobs moves on, Lloyd would assume the feature back roll.

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Cheezehead72's picture

May 31, 2024 at 12:53 pm

The problem with substituting a back on obvious passing downs allows the defense to substitute. Best to not change out and just go with they guys you have on the field. All the backs need to learn how to play all three downs

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