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Aaron Jones has historic place in his sights in 2022

Packers RB could climb as high as third on franchise’s all-time rushing list

RB Aaron Jones
RB Aaron Jones

GREEN BAY – Aaron Jones doesn't have all the numbers nailed down, but he's aware he's putting himself in a special place in team history.

"Am I in the top five?" he asked when questioned if he knows where he ranks on the franchise's all-time rushing list. The follow-up was how high he could rise this year. "I have a chance to be, what is it? (Number) three? Two?"

So here's the lowdown. Jones, the Packers' star running back entering his sixth NFL season, already ranks fifth in rushing yards with 4,163, and third is reasonably within reach in 2022, less than 900 yards away.

To be fifth in just five years is noteworthy enough. He's ahead of Dorsey Levens (7th/3,937), who played eight seasons and carried the ball almost 200 times more than Jones has. He's also ahead of Hall of Famers Clarke Hinkle (8th/3,860) and Paul Hornung (10th/3,711), who played 10 and nine seasons with the Packers, respectively. He leapfrogged those three Green Bay greats among the seven he buzzed by on the list last year.

But now Jones, whose career average of 5.1 yards per carry is tops among all the team leaders by a healthy margin, is also just 35 yards away from surpassing another Hall of Famer, Tony Canadeo (4th, 4,197), and 862 yards from jumping in front of John Brockington (5,024), all the way into third place.

Asked if he's surprised at all to reach such historic heights so soon, the humble yet ever-confident Jones said "yes and no," because he's always expected success from himself while understanding just how much of a past this franchise possesses.

"That means a lot," he said of both his current and potential ranking. "There's been a lot of great running backs to come through here in Green Bay. We've been around for over 100 years and to leave my mark in history and hopefully to keep climbing that is huge."

First or second place is for further down the road, with Ahman Green and Jim Taylor more than 4,000 yards away at this point. But the 862 to get to third would be in line with the 799 Jones racked up last year in sharing the rushing duties with backfield mate AJ Dillon.

Any statistics will be difficult to predict, though. While Jones and Dillon are both coming off seasons in which they each surpassed 1,100 combined rushing and receiving yards – just the second backfield duo in team history to accomplish that, joining Brockington and MacArthur Lane in 1972 – how the production gets divvied up this year is anyone's guess.

The passing game is transitioning to life without All-Pro Davante Adams, which should lead to more pass-catching opportunities for both backs. They also could be on the field more together than they've been in the past, and where the ball goes could depend on how defenses match up.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," Jones said. "I think we'll both see a good amount of touches in both the run and the pass game. Don't know who's going to get more, but I think it'll be split pretty nicely and you'll see both of us used as weapons.

"I think I'm going to be pretty balanced from what I've seen, which I like. It gives me a chance to get the ball in space, but also get in the backfield and take some handoffs. It keeps them (on defense) guessing."

Either way, the 2020 Pro Bowler emphasized the key to continuing to churn out big yardage is winning the one-on-ones, whether as a ball-carrier with a sole tackler trying to bring him down, or as a pass-catcher working to beat man coverage.

"It's really nailing the details, finishing runs, even making the contested plays downfield," he said.

Jones made one of those in practice Sunday, helping out quarterback Aaron Rodgers on a fourth-down scramble in the red zone on the final play of the two-minute drill. Though the defense might claim Rodgers would've been sacked, his desperation heave to the corner of the end zone was brought down by a leaping Jones amidst a small crowd of players. It set off a wild celebration by the offense.

Only the play wasn't actually as haphazard as it looked. A few days ago, Jones said there was a similar last-ditch play in practice, and he tried to improvise on his route the way he'd seen Jordy Nelson or Adams do during film study.

"The ball wasn't thrown to me, though," Jones said. "I felt myself mess up, so I went and asked him after the play and he coached me up on it."

What Rodgers told Jones was that once the QB cocks his arm, he needs him to reverse field and head in the opposite direction his original route was taking him, and the ball would be there.

"It's just trust. So I did exactly what he said – he was about to throw it, (I) broke, looked up, and the ball was coming," Jones said, recounting his disbelief the play was unfolding just the way they discussed it last week. "I'm like, 'Oh my God, no way the ball is coming over here.' I'm glad it did. Got to show off my hands."

Through five seasons and counting, all of Jones' well-rounded skills and explosive playmaking have been on display, and they've been awfully fun to watch.

But the historical achievements are noteworthy, too, even if in Jones' mind they're simply a product of the player he is and what he's asked to do.

"It means I came in here and I'm doing my job and doing it well," he said of possibly reaching third on the all-time rushing list by season's end. "But I've got to continue. I don't want to end at three. I want to finish at one eventually, and hopefully I'm here long enough to do that."

Packers' all-time rushing leaders

Table inside Article
Player Att Yds Avg Yrs
A. Green 1,851 8,322 4.5 8
J. Taylor 1,811 8,207 4.5 9
J. Brockington 1,293 5,024 3.9 7
T. Canadeo 1,025 4,197 4.1 11
A. Jones 822 4,163 5.1 5
R. Grant 955 4,143 4.3 6
D. Levens 1,006 3,937 3.9 8
C. Hinkle 1,171 3,860 3.3 10
G. Ellis 836 3,826 4.6 7
P. Hornung 893 3,711 4.2 9

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