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Countdown to camp: Packers undergo changing of the guard at running back

Josh Jacobs takes over for Aaron Jones, with intriguing depth behind him

RB Josh Jacobs
RB Josh Jacobs

"Countdown to camp" is a position-by-position overview of the Packers' roster heading into training camp. The series continues with the running backs.

GREEN BAY – The Packers haven't seen this profound a change to their offensive backfield in seven years.

That's when Aaron Jones was drafted, and in his seven seasons in Green Bay, he led the Packers in rushing five times. One of the years he finished second, 2021, was by four yards to AJ Dillon. The other was his rookie season, when fellow draftee Jamaal Williams edged him.

But now the Jones era has given way to Josh Jacobs' time, as in March the Packers made their biggest investment in an offensive free agent since lineman Billy Turner in 2019.

Jacobs immediately steps in as the Packers' No. 1 running back, and he brings with him three 1,000-yard seasons, two Pro Bowls and an NFL rushing title from 2022. That year, Jacobs ran for 1,653 yards and 12 TDs in being named first-team All-Pro.

Leaving a Raiders team in a constant state of turnover for the stability of the up-and-coming Packers was highly attractive to Jacobs. A hefty, multi-year contract helped, too, after the former first-round draft pick from Alabama played his fifth NFL season on the franchise tag.

He has spoken openly about wanting to play postseason football and use the biggest games to leave a legacy, and he expects to be in position to do so. Head Coach Matt LaFleur could utilize him in a variety of ways offensively, as he did with Jones, and he's chatted with Jacobs about possibly boosting his production as a pass catcher. Jacobs possesses the skills, having averaged 40 receptions per season with the Raiders.

The Packers also hope to maximize the powerful style, youth (age 26) and durability of the 5-10, 223-pound back. Jacobs has missed just 10 games in five years, four of them late last season due to a quad injury.

Behind Jacobs, the offense has intriguing depth at running back, but how exactly the pecking order will shake out isn't yet clear.

Dillon (6-0, 247) has returned on a one-year deal after his rookie contract expired, and he brings not only the most extensive knowledge of LaFleur's offense at the position, but also 2,428 rushing yards and 16 TDs of experience in it.

Last year, Dillon's turn as the No. 1 back while Jones was injured didn't go as well as hoped, but he was still highly effective in third-down and two-minute situations, where pass catching and pass protection are at a premium.

The Packers also spent a significant draft asset at running back, selecting USC's MarShawn Lloyd in the third round. Lloyd averaged a robust 7.1 yards per carry for the Trojans last season, rushing for 820 yards and nine TDs in 11 games.

Lloyd had begun his college career at South Carolina before transferring to Southern Cal for his final season. At 5-9, 220, his body type is even more compact than that of Jacobs, and his speed at that size is special. He clocked a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.

Another returnee to the backfield is second-year pro Emanuel Wilson (5-11, 226), who made the roster last season as an undrafted rookie from Fort Valley State University on the strength of an impressive preseason. Wilson led the league last summer with 223 preseason rushing yards on 38 carries (5.9 avg.) with two TDs.

Wilson was productive in spot duty during the early portion of his rookie season (14 carries, 85 yards, 6.1 avg.), but a shoulder injury in mid-November sidelined him for the rest of the regular season. He did return for the playoffs, posting 12 carries for 36 yards (3.0 avg.) as a reserve in two games.

Two additional developmental prospects at running back are Ellis Merriweather and Jarveon Howard.

Merriweather (6-1, 220) was signed to Green Bay's practice squad last November after entering the league with New Orleans as an undrafted rookie from UMass, where he led his team in rushing in 2022.

Howard (5-10, 215) is an undrafted rookie from Alcorn State, his transfer destination from Syracuse. At Alcorn State, Howard rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 19 TDs the past two years.

The following is the second installment in a series of photos examining the Packers' roster position by position. This installment examines the running backs.

Countdown to camp series -

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