There was plenty of buzz this week among Green Bay Packers fans because Aaron Jones out-rushed Ezekiel Elliott. This was the first 100+ yard rusher since Ty Montgomery ran for 162 yards against the Chicago Bears in Week 15 of 2016. Still, how will this fare in the long run?
Aaron Jones Set to Carve Out a Lasting Role in Green Bay Packers Backfield
Aaron Jones Against Dallas
Jones is now the Packers leading rusher on the season. He has 174 yards on 32 carries while Montgomery has 152 yards on 46 carries. Both running backs have two touchdowns.
Jones got his chance to tear into the Cowboys defense even though he was the third running back on the depth chart. Montgomery sat out the game with broken ribs. Jamaal Williams suffered a knee injury against the Bears after Montgomery went down. This opened the door for Jones, who had 13 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown.
Now, the Cowboys are dead last in DVOA rushing defense. Jones is the third 100+ yard rusher the Cowboys have surrendered this year already.
Jones does bring a lot of skills to this team. In his last year with UTEP, he ran for 1,773 rushing yards, but also had 28 receptions. Jones is a good pass catcher and reads blocks very well.
Ty Montgomery Does the Same Things
Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery are very similar in their measurables:
|Aaron Jones||Ty Montgomery|
|40-yard dash||4.56 s||4.55 s|
|Three-cone drill||6.82 s||6.97 s|
|20-yard shuttle||4.2 s||4.21 s|
Williams, the second string running back, was slower in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. This is a measurable generally related to the passing game. It might put Jones a little further up the depth chart with Jones’ recent performances.
Montgomery has additional value because he is a great pass-catcher. Jones has the ability to be a pass-catcher as well, but only has one catch so far. Since these two players fill essentially the same roles, Jones will have to push Montgomery for playing time. This can go one of two ways. The first option is that Jones will get more time because he is more similar to what the Packers love about Montgomery. Option two is that the Packers will play Jones less because that will split Montgomery along with a change of pace guy.
The Lost Chances for Jamaal Williams
Now, Williams had the first run at taking over in the Bears game. Williams had four carries before he also left with an injury. He had just 11 yards on those four carries. In that game, Montgomery averaged 5.6 yards per game and Jones averaged 3.8. However, Williams had just 2.8 yards per carry. On top of the yardage difference, Jones had a rushing touchdown as well.
Williams has gotten spot carries here and there. His season total is 33 yards on ten carries with a long of six yards. Williams managed to play in the Dallas game after his knee injury a week earlier. He got just one carry and managed to run straight into the line and fall forward for one yard. He didn’t receive a single carry for the rest of the game.
Williams excited several people in the preseason. He has not been terrible in the regular season, but his time is running at this point. Jones has shown himself to be more dynamic. The story of the last few weeks has been the story of chances. Without Montgomery on the field, Jones has taken advantage of his chances and Williams has not.
Roles for Aaron Jones Going Forward
Head coach Mike McCarthy is a very loyal coach. He has a good record of not letting players lose their starting spots due to injury. Montgomery will almost certainly be the starting back when he is healthy. He will then get the bulk of the carries.
However, McCarthy is also someone who does not give up on someone who can help win games. Jones will still see carries going forward. As someone who came up through college as a running back, Jones is better in pass protection. This is a skill Montgomery has been working on improving all offseason. Jones definitely did more with his opportunity than Williams did.
For the long-term health of this team heading toward another possible playoff run, the Packers need to get Jones on the field more. He can save Montgomery from taking on too high of a workload. Montgomery had one of the highest snap counts in football prior to his injury. More snaps for Jones means a healthier Montgomery. Jones gives a shorter drop off from Montgomery and will keep the offensive production up while Montgomery is resting.