Can the Packers' Run Game Improve?

Let's hope so because it has been a liability through the first four games. 

Two years ago, the Green Bay Packers had one of the best running back duos in the NFL as AJ Dillon led the team with 803 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and five scores while Aaron Jones, in two fewer games, finished with 799 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. Fast forward to the 2023 season, the run game is non-existent in head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense. Dillon is averaging 2.7 yards per carry after he carried the rock five times for 11 yards against the Detroit Lions in last Thursday’s contest. Although Jones has missed two games and was on a pitch count against the Lions, the elder statesman is averaging 4.2 yards per carry, the lowest mark of his career. Collectively, the team's Expected Points Added (EPA) on the ground is -0.14, tied for 18th. All of that begs the question: can the Packers’ run game improve?

Through four games, the Packers have registered 91 attempts on the ground, an average of roughly 23 carries per game. Prior to Sunday’s slate of games, that figure ranked 23rd in the league and is on pace to be the lowest number of carries on a per-game basis since LaFleur took over. In the dismal loss to Detroit, Green Bay had 12 carries, and while you might think that lowly total makes sense given that the Packers were down by 24 at the half, some context is important. They did not run their first run play until 2:50 left in the first quarter, their third offensive possession of the game. By that point, the Packers were already down 14-3. The first 15 plays are usually scripted, meaning Green Bay assembled their game plan around the pass to start the game. 

Establishing the run would go a long way toward improving the offense as a whole, but the team’s run blocking has complicated that. Point blank, it has been awful, largely because left guard Royce Newman, who has filled in for Elgton Jenkins during his absence, has been a liability and then some. But there’s enough blame to pass around. Ahead of the Week 4 matchup, the Packers’ Run Block Win Rate (RBWR) was 69%, 23rd in the NFL, according to ESPN Analytics. (For what it’s worth, Green Bay’s RBWR in 2022 and 2021 ranked eighth and fourth, respectively.) That percentage and corresponding ranking will surely drop after the team’s Week 4 performance. However, it is worth pointing out that right guard Jon Runyan Jr. played through a sprained ankle against Detroit and right tackle Zach Tom essentially played on one leg after coming in with a questionable tag due to a knee injury. Getting healthy along the offensive line could be one factor in elevating the run game. 

Plus, consider the Packers’ next three opponents – the Las Vegas Raiders, Denver Broncos, and Minnesota Vikings. Beyond their 3-9 combined record, they have all struggled against the run. Prior to the Sunday slate of games, Minnesota ranked 19th in rush yards allowed per game (120.7 rush yards allowed; allowed 83 yards versus the Carolina Panthers in Week 4); Las Vegas ranked 21st (127.3; allowed 155 yards versus the Los Angeles Chargers); and Denver ranked 32nd (177.7; allowed 171 yards versus the Chicago Bears). 

If the Packers can’t exploit those opponents’ suspect run defense over the next three games, especially if Jenkins returns to the lineup starting in Week 5, then it might be time to sound the alarms. 

 

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Rex is a lifelong Packers fan but was sick of the cold, so he moved to the heart of Cowboys country. Follow him on Twitter (@Sheild92) and Instagram (@rex.sheild). 

__________________________

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3 points
 

Comments (44)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Coldworld's picture

October 02, 2023 at 12:15 pm

Not without some radical changes in personnel use. If you can’t run block, you can’t expect much from any RB. Jones helps through talent, but the reality is it won’t be season changing alone (and he may not stay healthy).

We invited this with the treatment of Nijman, the refusal to push Myers and the insistence that Tom must be RT. Walker’s ascension is promising long term, but he too is not helping the run game at this point. Rhyan looked improved but we won’t try him even with Runyon hobbled. With the coaches we have I have no faith that we will turn that around. Technically, our IOL all seem to have regressed in the run game as well.

Nijman, Jenkins/Runyon,Tom, Rhyan, Jones may be our best line up to run. Walker as swing T. Whether it can hold up in pass pro remains to be tested, but the last version didn’t when it mattered either. Some times you just have to take risks to get better. The time for doing that was wasted in summer.

6 points
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WD's picture

October 02, 2023 at 04:10 pm

This revamp of the O-line seems plausible and is certainly worth a try. Tom needs to be in the middle with Nijman and Jones at tackles. We need to stop being pushed around and start pushing the opponent around. I think we just need more beef. And, no more Mr. Nice Guy .

3 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

October 02, 2023 at 08:53 pm

Excellent breakdown of what is wrong for those that care to watch. Otherwise just mumble mumble everybody's hurt and provide excuses. Wahle repeatedly mentions the Packers are Telegraphing what they want to do by their footwork and body positioning.

https://youtu.be/-AoKuquxlXc?si=6ZDCg0oeRA3KFF1Q

3 points
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croatpackfan's picture

October 02, 2023 at 12:17 pm

Not before Packers fix OL and FB/leading blocker issue! Answer is that simple...!

2 points
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Tundraboy's picture

October 02, 2023 at 08:02 pm

Exactly Croat. Aaron Jones wasn't on a pitch count the couple of times he ran he had his bell rung. Like MLF didn't forsee the Lions head hunting. Sad to see them tee off on our excuse for a run game. Where was the blocking?

2 points
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Leatherhead's picture

October 02, 2023 at 12:18 pm

In 2010, we were 24th in rushing yards, and 25th in yards per attempt. If you're one of those people who has trouble understanding the point, the point is that you can be successful without a primo running attack, and since the topic of the article was our running game, not our defense or QB, I mentioned it.

How many yards did Jones and Dillon get behind basically the same line last year?

-1 points
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13TimeChamps's picture

October 02, 2023 at 12:36 pm

I'm not exactly sure what point you're trying to make, but If you're going to compare this year's team to 2010:

In 2010, we had a legit top-5 defense and a QB completing 66% of his passes.

This year we have a 20th ranked defense and a QB completing 56% of his passes.

Everyone knew this year the defense and running game on offense had to step up because of the youth and inexperience in the passing game. I'm not sure how 2010's rushing numbers are in any way relevant.

8 points
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crayzpackfan's picture

October 02, 2023 at 05:10 pm

LH needs to look at this. These are the season rushing stats - yards and TD's of every Super Bowl winning team. The (*) next to a number denotes a time their opponents season stats were better than their own. Pretty telling just how important a running game is against an apposing team as well as stopping their run. 5 yards - 7 yards? Hmmm.

Packers – 1915 - 18
Packers - 1608 – 22
KC – 2220 – 19
Colts – 1336* – 9
Cowboys – 2249 – 25
Miami – 2960 – 26
Miami – 2521 – 16
Steelers - 2417 – 19
Steelers – 2633 – 22
Raiders – 2285 – 14
Cowboys – 2369 – 21
Steelers – 2297 – 16
Steeler – 2603 – 25
Raiders – 2146 – 14
Redskins – 1140 – 5* (Player Strike in 82)
Raiders – 2240 – 18
49ers – 2465 – 21
Bears – 2761 – 27
Giants – 2245 – 18
Redskins – 2102 – 18
49ers – 2523 – 18
49ers – 1966 – 14
Giants – 2049 – 17
Redskins – 2049 – 21
Cowboys – 2121 – 20
Cowboys – 2161 – 20
49ers – 1897 – 23
Cowboys – 2201 -29
Packers – 1838 – 9
Broncos – 2378 – 18
Broncos – 2468 – 26
Rams – 2059 – 13
Ravens – 2199 – 9
Patriots – 1793* – 15
Tampa – 1557 – 6*
Patriots – 1607 – 9*
Patriots – 2134 – 15
Steelers – 2223 – 21
Colts – 1762* - 17*
Giants – 2148 – 15
Steelers – 1690 – 16
Saints – 2106 – 21
Packers – 1606* - 11
Giants – 1427* - 17
Ravens – 1901* 17
Seattle – 2188 – 14
Patriots – 1727 – 13
Broncos – 1718 – 13
Patriots – 1872 – 19
Eagles – 2115 – 9
Patriots – 2037 – 18
KC – 1569* - 16
Tampa – 1519 – 16
Rams – 1683* - 10*
KC – 1970 – 18

0 points
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Leatherhead's picture

October 02, 2023 at 07:55 pm

Thank you for this. I need to take a closer look at this than I can afford to right now.

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lou's picture

October 02, 2023 at 06:15 pm

Agree that you can win without a premier running attack and the last Super Bowl proved that point with the rookie Starks being the lead back. BUT, that team included a top flight offensive line, several outstanding WR's and the best throwing QB in the history of the game.

-1 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

October 02, 2023 at 09:00 pm

You sure are an ignorance is bliss type aren't you? No concept of what making a team one dimensional means to a defense, pass or run. What it means to a DL to be able to pin your ears back because you know the other team has given up trying to run the ball. That's called a Free for All. You spout the same shit every week but never look at the facts. Did you notice what the Lions did against the Falcons vs what the Packers did? They shut down the run and then won the game handily.

But be proud the Packers are once again 30th in run defense. So yes once again, every damn team that is ahead of them in passing defense is also ahead of them in run defense. FOOL.

1 points
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barutanseijin's picture

October 02, 2023 at 09:50 pm

A little civility might enhance your argument.

1 points
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Leatherhead's picture

October 03, 2023 at 08:46 am

Don't bother. I see his avatar and I skip over it and read the next guy.

0 points
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albert999's picture

October 02, 2023 at 12:38 pm

Barry’s press conference sounded like a clueless high school coach
He kept say well it’s hard when the other team runs it 40 times
4 or 40 u can stop 1 run and now all teams have ur dumb ass comments in their play books
He has to go NOW

8 points
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Leatherhead's picture

October 02, 2023 at 12:52 pm

It is hard when t he other team runs it 40 times.

Is there anyway that could be prevented? I mean, Buffalo gives up more yards/rush than we do, but teams don't run it 40 times on them. Why? Because Buffalo keeps offensive pressure on the opponent. The offense stays on t he field and scores points. We're not doing that right now.

The Packer organization has made the decision it's better to defend the pass than the run, that's the orientation. I still don't understand why you'd want a team to pass for 7 yards instead of run it for 5.

I also think that the long reverse skews the rushing yardage quite a bit. Montgomery and Gibbs ran it 40 times for 161 yards....that's just a hair over 4 yards/carry. The three main receivers....Amon-Ra, LaPorta, and Reynolds....got targeted 18 times for 180 yards. That's more than twice as much.

-5 points
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Since'61's picture

October 02, 2023 at 04:48 pm

LH - The flaw in the Packers defensive approach for years has been to stop the pass first and prevent the big play. There is nothing wrong with that approach except that if the defense cannot stop the run game they die by a thousand cuts 5 yards or plus at a time and their defense never gets off the field to get some rest.

The strength of the Packers defense is their pass rush and their DBs defending the pass. However, the Packers need to stop the opponents run game and make them play into the strength of the defense. Since the Packers defense cannot stop the run they don't get the benefit of having a good pass defense.
Conclusion stop the run, force the opponent to pass and utilize the strength of the defense.

When the opposing offense sees only 2 DLs and DBs playing 7+ yards off the LOS they are going to run the ball. Why wouldn't they? It's obvious that they are going to pick up 3-5 yards before a defender can even get into position to make a tackle. If that tackle is broken or missed, as is often the case with the Packers, the run play is going to be good for 5 yards or more. Focusing on the pass at the expense of stopping the run is just a poor approach for trying to stop a professional NFL offense. Most importantly it just doesn't work and it hasn't worked for years for the Packers defense. Time to stop the madness.

Thanks, Since '61

4 points
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Bitternotsour's picture

October 02, 2023 at 05:26 pm

Just for the record, since 2010 the Packers with a "stop the pass" focus have been 128 -74 -2. That looks pretty much like a winning formula to me.

I think Leatherhead is right here, the issue is the offense isn't putting up sufficient points, and they aren't controlling the clock. You want a better defense, score more points. Force them to pass to catch up.

-4 points
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5
Coldworld's picture

October 02, 2023 at 06:12 pm

When you can not stop the run and average 4.5 yards plus per attempt, not many offenses get a chance to score heavily, historically.

We aren’t being gashed for big plays, just for 4-5 yards a carry, long drives, tiring defense, O out of rhythm. It did not work when we had good veteran receivers and one of the best QBs to play. Sorry, for the most part I have to disagree.

3 points
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13TimeChamps's picture

October 02, 2023 at 06:30 pm

I think during that 128-74-2 stretch you're referencing, the Packers offense put up a boatload of points. That record wasn't because of a "stop the pass" defense. It was because of an offense that featured a HOF QB and some really good WRs...Jordy, Davante, Jennings, plus a pretty good RB in Aaron Jones.

As far as "force them to pass", that is exactly the opposite of what he proposes. He doesn't want teams to pass because of his 7>5 obsession. If giving up 7 yards on defense is worse than giving up 5, why would you want to force teams to pass?

1 points
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Bitternotsour's picture

October 02, 2023 at 07:40 pm

you want them to pass into a defense that is designed to stop the pass. this isn't that hard to follow.

and yes, boatload of points, that's the point. this defense isn't solely to blame, it's the LaFleur offense that is failing every bit as much. special teams hasn't looked all that smart either...

1 points
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13TimeChamps's picture

October 02, 2023 at 08:13 pm

The reason the current Packers defense is successful against the pass is because DC's know they can run the ball pretty much at will, eating up clock and tiring out our defense. You're right...this isn't that hard to follow.

1 points
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Bitternotsour's picture

October 03, 2023 at 09:44 am

take out the freak trick play and the defense allowed about 4 yards per carry. did they get off the field on third downs, no. BUT, they never got to rest thru the first half. the offense was pathetic, and that's what's unacceptable. the offense is not helping the D.

that said, Detroit was better. They are a team in ascendancy. They have an identity, the identity of their coach. sadly, the same is true of the Packers.

0 points
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The_Baloney_Stops_Here's picture

October 02, 2023 at 06:16 pm

The defensive approach shouldn't be solely tied to what the offense is doing. When you draft 8 defensive players in the first round, you should be able to rely solely on the defense at times. As soon as this team leans on the defense, it crumbles, almost every single time. I've been hesitant to jump on the "Fire Barry" train but Im there now. And if Lafleur cant make the change then his future here should be reconsidered as well. Green Bay didnt become Titletown by playing scared and not to lose.

2 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

October 02, 2023 at 09:04 pm

Packers vs Falcons, Lions vs Falcons. Your theory bites you on the ass hard. But don't admit you might be wrong just ignore the bad and continue to spout your BS. Your amazing. The Packers could be playing the Titans and you'd be more worried about Tannehill than Henry. 🙄

It's the same with your PR and KR theories. I gave you PROOF last year that every 5 yards you gained from the 25 increased your chances of scoring. Your response? Ignore and continue to spout BS.

1 points
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stockholder's picture

October 02, 2023 at 12:54 pm

Bad offensive Line. No Offense.
And you all blamed Rodgers.

-1 points
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LeotisHarris's picture

October 02, 2023 at 01:13 pm

...and the circle goes round and round, and the plastic ponies go up and down...

6 points
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The_Baloney_Stops_Here's picture

October 02, 2023 at 06:12 pm

Yeah man, 4 games of a bad run game totally negates 15 years of checking out of the run ad nauseum. Yawn.

3 points
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Bitternotsour's picture

October 02, 2023 at 07:43 pm

though i think rodgers deserves a significant share of blame for innumerable things, i wanted him gone because he's a narcissistic douche. at this point in his career the most dangerous place on a football field is between Aaron Rodgers and a sideline camera...

1 points
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T7Steve's picture

October 02, 2023 at 01:08 pm

"If the Packers can’t exploit those opponents’ suspect run defense over the next three games, especially if Jenkins returns to the lineup starting in Week 5, then it might be time to sound the alarms."

The bells are ringing, Rex! Also these teams will also be running on us. What are we ranked?

2 points
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Since'61's picture

October 02, 2023 at 01:24 pm

First the Packers need to put their best 5 OLs on the field. With Bak done for the season I believe that means Walker, Jenkins when he's healthy, Tom, Runyon and Nijman at RT. during Jenkins absence try Sean Rhyan at LG.

Second the Packers need to get Jones back at 100%. Even behind a weakened OL he remains capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. So when he is 100% get him the ball. With Jones back he will help to make Dillon and Taylor more effective as change of pace backs.

It all starts up front with the OL. Get them settled and get them going and the run game will improve. Run the ball more frequently and enable the OL to deliver hits rather than just take them while pass blocking. give them the chance to set the tone against the opposing DL. Let them stack success in the run game and they will get going. 12 run plays a game is just not good enough regardless of what the score is. Down 14-3 in the 1st quarter is far too soon to give up on the ground game. Stay with it. If nothing else it gives the defense a little longer of a break that three quick incomplete passes. Why our head coach doesn't understand this while he is in his 5th season in the league is beyond me. If he hasn't figured this out by now I doubt it's ever going to happen.
Thanks, Since '61

8 points
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Duneslick's picture

October 02, 2023 at 03:18 pm

Who is Cox ?

0 points
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Since'61's picture

October 02, 2023 at 03:34 pm

Sorry. That was a typo. I meant Tom and I have corrected the post accordingly. Thank you for pointing out the error. Since '61

1 points
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The_Baloney_Stops_Here's picture

October 02, 2023 at 06:10 pm

A wise man once said, "you get what you emphasize."
Seems to me like they've foregone emphasizing the run to get Love and the young receivers as many reps in the pass game as humanly possible. Lafleur has been a tad too aggressive with the playcalling in my humble opinion. Find that balance, Matt. Balance is the key to everything.

2 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

October 02, 2023 at 09:12 pm

Wait I didn't know LaFleur provided pillows at training camp practices!

I understand exactly what you mean and that's why I wanted a guy like Flores as DC. Somebody to push LaFleur to have 2 or 6vmpre physical practices in TC.

2 points
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ImaPayne's picture

October 02, 2023 at 06:34 pm

Who cares. O line, running, passing? This was a 7 win team at best before the season started. imo it still is. This isn't a wild card and certainly not an nfc champ.
We should be all asking where are the play makers on this team. Guys who win games and make a difference?
Ie, our speed guy receiver caught one 25 yard pass since coming back.. Justin j caught at least 3 passes that long yesterday, two for touchdowns and winning the game.
Our top RB got 11 yards against Detroit. Two of the vikes, one lion and one bear all got at least 100 plus.
How many great tackles, interceptions and pass break ups does our star back Jairre have..
This team has average players expect an average game and an avg win season. It's football enjoy the season.

0 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

October 02, 2023 at 09:13 pm

It's just the worst, they lose anymore and they will almost be the Vikings! Go home you troll.

1 points
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Coldworld's picture

October 02, 2023 at 06:51 pm

Let’s turn this around. What do you all think LaFleur has excelled at during his time here that can be clearly attributed to him?

We know what Campbell brought to Detroit. We knew what MM brought, Bill B and others, but 5 years in, what is LaFleurs coaching calling card, his claim to excellence that lifts his teams?

6 points
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LeotisHarris's picture

October 02, 2023 at 07:06 pm

Kudos, Coldworld. That is an excellent question, and one you might think a professional journalists devoted to the Packers might have generated.

After five years? Man, you got me! Maybe we should ask around the NFL and see what other teams see as his strength? He did a great job upon arrival of calming the waters with his HOF QB, but then handed him the reins. He seems to be well-liked by his players. He looks nice on the sidelines, and goes out of his way not to offend. He'd be a great houseguest.

4 points
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Packerpasty's picture

October 02, 2023 at 07:20 pm

thats easy, having AR on the team as QB and taking credit for those wins...two more years and bye bye to MLF I bet...maybe one...

1 points
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SinceLombardi's picture

October 02, 2023 at 08:06 pm

Well that’s easy, his calling card is blowing the #1 seed in back to back seasons.

1 points
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crayzpackfan's picture

October 03, 2023 at 08:18 am

His hair? I mean come on! His beautiful hair is straight up Harvard frat boy and should be setting the league sidelines on fire. We really don't know how good we have it here until that gorgeous man with his godlike hair is no longer here staring into a laminated play sheet then looking up from it, with a look on his face like he just read Where the Red Fern Grows. He's perosseous. Don't take his calm, passive, beauty and his dreamy hair for granted.

3 points
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CanPackFan's picture

October 03, 2023 at 05:53 pm

Good observation Coldworld. MLF has brought us how talk is more important than action. How a superior QB and receiver can out out score all other weak areas. Also, how a soft coach can turn a team soft. Not a good legacy to portray.

0 points
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Packerpasty's picture

October 02, 2023 at 07:18 pm

Probably not...how can it...Dillon is not good and Jones doesn't get used because he'll get injured again..

2 points
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PAPackerbacker's picture

October 04, 2023 at 07:45 pm

Of course the run game can improve. But first, don't you have to run the ball? Aaron Jones needs to get more than just a few touches per game. And Dillion needs to step it up. The talent is there. It's time to get both involved in a joint effort and stack some games in the W's column. Go! Pack! Go!

0 points
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