What Aaron Jones' return means for the Packers' offense

With new deal in place, fifth-year running back can leave his imprint in Green Bay

RB Aaron Jones

GREEN BAY – It is indeed time to run it back.

On Friday, Aaron Jones put pen to paper on a new deal with the Packers that'll keep the Pro Bowl running back in Green Bay for the foreseeable future.

Coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Jones has a chance to put a dent in the Packers' record books in the coming years. He needs just 115 rushing yards to surpass Eddie Lacy for 10th in all-time rushing, while another 1,000-yard campaign would catapult Jones all the way into fourth.

What's more, the 26-year-old running back has established himself as one of the league's most preeminent scorers since entering the NFL as a fifth-round pick out of the University of Texas-El Paso.

Jones' 37 rushing touchdowns are the fourth-most among NFL running backs since 2017, a mark also tied with Verne Lewellen for No. 4 in Packers history. Jones already owns one single-season franchise record, with 23 total TDs in 2019 (including playoffs).

So what does his return mean for the Packers? For starters, it allows Head Coach Matt LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to develop a long-term plan for how Jones can be further utilized in Green Bay's offense.

There was optimism when LaFleur was hired in 2019 that his scheme would be a perfect fit for Jones and that quickly proved to be the case. Jones not only amassed 2,188 rushing yards over their two seasons together, but also became a bigger factor in the passing game, as well.

Take a look at photos of Green Bay Packers RB Aaron Jones through the years.

He's the Packers' second-leading pass-catcher since 2019, hauling in 96 receptions for 829 yards and five touchdowns in 30 regular-season games. Comparatively, Jones caught just 71 passes over four seasons at UTEP and 35 through his first two seasons in Green Bay.

One strength of Jones' game that LaFleur has tapped into has been motioning his 5-foot-9, 208-pound running back out of the backfield in two-back formations. The strategy creates a problem for defensive coordinators not wanting to tip their hand as far as coverage, while also freeing up Jones in space.

Over the past four years, Jones has taken it upon himself to develop into an every-down running back during his time with position coach Ben Sirmans. While always touted for his explosiveness, Jones has come a long way as both a receiver and pass-protector.

Yet, the Packers have made sure not to overdo it with Jones' workout load. To date, he's only touched the ball 846 times with four career games in which he carried the ball 20 or more times.

That's partly a product of LaFleur's preference for maintaining a deep reservoir of running backs, which was apparent last year when the Packers tabbed second-round pick AJ Dillon to serve as the understudy to Jones and Jamaal Williams.

At 6-foot, 247 pounds, Dillon's bullish running style was seen as a complementary changeup to Jones' slash-and-dash traits. After missing a month due to a bout with COVID-19, Dillon offered a preview of what a Jones and Dillon backfield could look like in the Packers' Week 16 win over Tennessee.

Green Bay's 234-yard day on the ground came courtesy of Jones busting a game-altering, 59-yard run after halftime and Dillon plowing through the Titans' front on his way to 124 yards and two TDs.

When the situation called for it, Jones still showed he can handle the lion's share of the carries, as well, in rushing for 168 yards and two TDs on 18 carries against Detroit in Week 2 and 145 yards on 20 attempts against Carolina in Week 15.

A direct correlation can be made between Jones' production and wins. Through four years, the Packers are 9-1 during games in which Jones has eclipsed 100 rushing yards and 8-2 when he's scored at least two TDs.

Although Williams is a free agent, Green Bay is in position to return a majority of the skill-position players who contributed 1,549 of its 2,118 rushing yards (73.1%) and 3,913 of its 4,299 passing yards (91.0%) from the league's highest-scoring offense in 2020.

And with his own new deal in place, Jones has all the time and opportunity required to leave a lasting imprint on Green Bay.

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