GREEN BAY – Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams have been champing at the bit for weeks to put the pads back on and show just how far the Packers’ rushing offense has come.
They’ll have the perfect chance to make a statement on Thursday night against the Chicago Bears, the NFL’s top-ranked run defense from a year ago.
Neither Williams nor Jones played this preseason due to minor hamstring tweaks and a questionable playing surface in Canada, but both enter the season healthy and optimistic about the commitment Head Coach Matt LaFleur has shown to the run.
“You’re always supposed to have patience as a running back but really we’re just going to go in there and do what we planned this whole week and work,” Williams said. “They’re going to get a few stops but we’re planning on just running our offense, and really getting the offense moving.”
The Bears returns most of their key pieces from a defense that conceded 100 rushing yards to only two backs all of last season – Miami’s Frank Gore (15 carries for 101 yards) and the New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley (24-125) – en route to allowing a league-low 80 rushing yards per game.
Despite finishing 22nd in run offense (104.2 yards per game) in 2018, the Packers actually had the highest yards per carry of any team (5.0). Jones, who missed four games, led the NFL in the category with 5.5 yards per attempt on his 133 carries.
Jones didn’t play against the Bears in last year’s opener at Lambeau Field and left after only four carries in the teams’ December showdown at Soldier Field, but he feels ready entering his first in-game action of 2019.
“I feel like I’m in good condition right now, good shape, going hard in practice, finishing runs in practice and running back to the huddle,” Jones said. “You’re going to have that added adrenaline, it’s Thursday, (season) opener. If you get tired, you probably shouldn’t be on the field.”
Williams enjoyed a fair amount of success last December after stepping in for an injured Jones against the Bears, picking up 97 total yards (12 carries for 55 yards and four catches for 42).
“They’re a good defense, but nobody is scared,” Williams said. “Everybody bleeds red. Everybody is mortal. We’re going to play our game. We’re going to play Packers football.”
Going with Boyle: While Tim Boyle emerged from his second NFL cut-down as the Packers’ No. 2 quarterback, that didn’t mean the weekend was any less stressful.
In fact, it was pretty much the opposite with all the uncertainty about whether both Boyle and DeShone Kizer would be behind Aaron Rodgers on the 53-man roster.
“I think it was actually a little worse this year from the anxiety of not knowing what was going to happen,” Boyle said. “We didn’t know if we were going to keep two (quarterbacks) or keep three. Just the unknown.”
Boyle spent those 48 hours mainly with his family, doing whatever he could to pass the time until Saturday’s 3 p.m. CT deadline. Finally, Boyle was informed he would be the Packers’ No. 2 quarterback after the team chose to waive Kizer.
On Sunday, General Manager Brian Gutekunst praised Boyle for the strides he’s made over the past year, which were reflected in his six preseason touchdown passes and a 112.9 passer rating.
Boyle is grateful for the opportunity to serve as the primary backup on game days after only being active once as a rookie (in Week 2). That means making sure the former undrafted free agent is there for whatever information Rodgers needs.
“It means a lot obviously to be part of this organization and to back up one of the best to ever do it,” Boyle said. “It’s all about Aaron. It’s all about making sure he’s at his best on game day and making sure, on the same token, I’m ready to go in case anything happens.”
The Green Bay Packers practiced inside the Don Hutson Center on Tuesday before heading to Chicago for the first game of the regular season.