Skip to main content

Aaron Jones has helped elevate Packers' offense at perfect time

Injuries behind him, Packers RB on a roll and “ready to grind” in playoffs

RB Aaron Jones
RB Aaron Jones

GREEN BAY – Three weeks ago, Aaron Jones had 298 rushing yards this season.

Since then, he's had 358.

Three weeks ago, the Packers' offense was averaging 329 yards per game.

Since then, it's averaged 427.

There are no coincidences in this particular universe.

With Jones available weekly at as close to full strength as possible, Jordan Love & Co. have reached a different level of production. The surge both individually by Jones and collectively as a unit came at the right time to get the Packers into the playoffs, and they're looking for it to continue into Sunday's NFC Wild Card round at Dallas.

"You ever heard the old saying, 'Show me a good coach and I'll show you some good players'?" Head Coach Matt LaFleur asked rhetorically on Wednesday. "Yeah. He's a great player, so he makes us better, no doubt about it. It definitely opens up our playbook, I would say."

When LaFleur said "us," he was pointing at his own chest, referencing the offensive coaching staff. But the "us" is rather universal.

While Jones is always quick to credit the blocking in front of him for his success, those blockers don't always like to take said credit. When it comes to the ground game, pass catching and blitz pickup, Jones' value to the team is "unmatched," according to guard Jon Runyan.

"His shiftiness and quickness, he's able to set up our blocks so well, and his ability to make that cut off of one foot just instantly … makes us look 10 times better than we probably are," Runyan said. "That's also with his vision, too.

"He knows the landmark, he's going to press it as long as he can, and he's going to find a hole. Always."

It's so easy to relish the run Jones is on, with three straight 100-yard rushing games (a first for a Packers running back since 2006), it's also easy to forget how precarious this all was.

A hamstring injury in a big performance Week 1 at Chicago (127 yards from scrimmage, two TDs) forced Jones to miss three early-season games and play a limited role in several others. Then, just as he was getting back to a full workload, an ugly knee injury vs. the Chargers in mid-November saw him carted off the field in tears.

Jones feared his season might be over with a torn ACL. So did others around him.

"I thought the same," LaFleur said. "It looked pretty gruesome live. I know he was in a lot of pain.

"When we got the news that it wasn't as bad as we initially thought, we were ecstatic about that."

With just the MCL damaged, Jones would have a chance to return, but that road back wasn't entirely smooth. Having already dealt with all the hamstring trouble, another injury in the same season was mentally as well as physically taxing.

He wondered if all the work he was putting in was worth it, or if he should back off and not push himself so hard. He stayed engaged with his teammates as best he could, returned again after missing three games, and then announced he was really back with that breakout game on Christmas Eve in Carolina.

He carried the ball 21 times for 127 yards, his most in both categories since mid-November last year. The Packers' offense found another gear, scoring 33 points to start the three-game winning streak to end the regular season.

"It wasn't about showing myself what I can do because I believe in myself and I know what I can do," Jones said. "It was just about showing everybody else who hadn't seen it or hadn't seen it for a couple of weeks. That was the biggest thing. And then just helping my team."

That he has, and Runyan added "I wouldn't even say he's really 100%."

That's a scary thought as Jones heads back to his home state of Texas, where he had his first career 100-yard rushing game against the Cowboys as a rookie in 2017 (19 carries, 125 yards, one TD in 35-31 win).

He returned to Dallas two years later for a monster four-touchdown performance (19 carries, 107 yards; seven receptions, 75 yards in 34-24 win), and then carried 24 times for 138 yards and a TD last season vs. the Cowboys at Lambeau Field in an overtime triumph.

A prevailing theory is that with Jones having missed six games this season and playing limited snaps in others, he's fresher than he otherwise would be for the playoffs.

He's not buying it, but he's not slowing down, either.

"Naw, the postseason's the postseason," Jones said. "You're going to get amped up. You're going to rise to that. I'm just excited to be in the postseason, ready to grind.

"I feel like I've gotten back healthy and been able to show what I can do, kind of how I started the season. Just looking to continue to build off that momentum."

Related Content