Countdown to Camp is a series of stories examining the Packers' roster, position by position, leading up to training camp. The second installment features the running backs.
GREEN BAY – The complementary pieces in the Packers' running game keep multiplying.
For most of 2019, Green Bay's backfield was the Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams show, and for good reason.
Jones produced like a feature back, with more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage (1,084 rushing, 474 receiving in the regular season) and a franchise-record 23 total touchdowns, including playoffs. Williams did his part when called upon, tying for the team lead in receiving TDs with five while adding more than 700 yards from scrimmage of his own (460 rushing, 253 receiving).
Then in December, along came waiver claim Tyler Ervin, who not only revitalized the Packers' moribund return game but also quickly found a niche in Matt LaFleur's offense as a gadget-like option, lining up and motioning almost anywhere in the formation.
The latest addition to the running back stable came in April's draft, when the Packers used their second-round pick on Boston College's AJ Dillon, a workhorse who piled up 4,382 yards and 38 TDs on the ground in three college seasons.
How everyone fits in 2020 is up to LaFleur, but there's no question heading in that the 5-9, 208-pound Jones is the No. 1 guy, because the numbers can't be ignored.
The fourth-year pro and former fifth-round pick was the engine that ran the offense when top receiver Davante Adams was sidelined at midseason. Jones averaged 138 total yards over Adams' four-game absence, and Green Bay went 4-0. When Jones didn't produce at a high level in 2019, the offense struggled. He averaged just 42 total yards in the Packers' three regular-season losses.
The rest of the backs will give the offense choices as well as protection in case of injury.
Drafted in the same 2017 class as Jones but one round earlier, Williams (6-0, 213) knows and relishes his complementary role. LaFleur's creativity could come to the forefront with the speedy 5-10, 192-pound Ervin, who was re-signed in the offseason.
The following is the second installment in a series of photos examining the Packers' roster position by position. This installment examines the running backs.
Perhaps Dillon, at a chiseled 6-foot, 247 pounds, takes on short-yardage, power-back duties initially before expanding as he transitions to the pro game. His selection also was made with the near future in mind, as both Jones and Williams are in the final year of their rookie contracts.
Overall, the backfield is considerably deeper than it was a year ago, when the No. 3 was either Tra Carson, who was released in mid-October; rookie sixth-round pick Dexter Williams, who was a game-day inactive for 14 of 18 games; or fullback Danny Vitale, who departed as a free agent.
The Packers will look for the younger Williams (5-11, 212), a Notre Dame product who posted just shy of 1,000 rushing yards in his final college season, to make a substantial second-year jump. Should his hands as a pass catcher and blocking as a pass protector improve, he'll make a push to climb the depth chart.
The other returnee, Damarea Crockett (5-11, 224), spent the final 10 weeks of the regular season and the playoffs on the Packers' practice squad last year after entering the league as an undrafted rookie with Houston. Crockett, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards over three seasons at Missouri, also spent time on Oakland's practice squad before coming to Green Bay.
The newest addition is undrafted rookie Patrick Taylor (6-2, 217), who rushed for 2,884 yards and 36 touchdowns over four seasons at Memphis, with his final year limited due to injury.
Whether or not the Packers replace Vitale at fullback could come down to how many roster spots they ultimately devote to the backfield, but they have two newcomers vying for a role.
West Virginia product Elijah Wellman (6-1, 241) spent parts of his first two offseason with Washington, with whom he entered the league undrafted in 2018. Jordan Jones (6-1, 255) is an undrafted rookie from Prairie View A&M who began his college career at Grambling State.
Countdown to Camp series