Is Josh Jacobs An Upgrade Over Aaron Jones?

Taking a closer look at both Aaron Jones' and Josh Jacobs' career stats, can we say that Jacobs is an upgrade over Jones?

In March, the Green Bay Packers' running back room briefly featured both Josh Jacobs and Aaron Jones for less than 90 minutes before the team released Jones. Both players are incredibly talented and rank among the best running backs in the league. With this in mind, is Josh Jacobs an upgrade over Aaron Jones?

Make no mistake, the Packers will miss Aaron Jones, both on and off the field. Brian Gutekunst previously stated that Jones was the heart and soul of the Packers. However, Green Bay's current roster has more than enough juice to make up for Jones's absence moving forward.

Jones has played 97 games in his NFL career, while Jacobs has played 73. Green Bay is getting a younger back in Jacobs, who has more career rushing touchdowns and rushing yards than Jones despite having a shorter sample size. Jacobs has forced 56 more missed tackles than Jones throughout their careers. Furthermore, he has 163 more yards after contact than Jones. Additionally, Jones' best PFF rushing season came in 2022 with an 86.1 grade. Jacobs has two seasons with a better grade than Jones, including an elite 91.6 in 2022, when he led the NFL in rushing yards and was a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro.

Josh Jacobs is coming off his worst rushing statistical season. He experienced a career low in yards per attempt and recorded less than 1000 rushing yards for only the second time in five seasons. Additionally, he registered his lowest yards after contact in 2023. With only 9 rushes going for over 10 yards, which was his career low, Jacobs fell significantly short of his previous low of 21 in 2021. However, the entire Las Vegas Raiders offense was a mess last year. They ranked as the sixth-worst rushing offense and the 21st best passing offense. In such circumstances, it's challenging for a talent like Jacobs to get anything going when the rest of the offense is struggling.

On the other hand, Jones is a better receiving threat. Jones has at least four PFF receiving grades above 80.0. He has 600 more receiving yards than Jacobs and averages a higher yards per catch. Furthermore, Josh Jacobs is yet to record his first career receiving touchdown.

When it comes to pass-blocking, Josh Jacobs edges out Aaron Jones. With an average pass-blocking grade of 62.4 compared to Jones's 58.8, Jacobs demonstrates greater proficiency in this aspect of the game. Additionally, Jacobs boasts a pass-blocking efficiency of 95.6, slightly higher than Jones's 95.3. 

When Aaron Jones was out with injury, Green Bay's rushing game suffered, with A.J. Dillon averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. However, Jacobs offers a different skill set, particularly his knack for breaking tackles. Defenses will struggle to handle both Jacobs and the Packers' receiving corps, including Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, and Dontayvion Wicks. With Jordan Love, a top 10 quarterback, capable of easing the pressure off Jacobs, there will be ample opportunities to exploit lighter defensive boxes. Nevertheless, Green Bay's offensive line needs to step up its game, having ranked as the 22nd best unit in run-blocking last year.

As a pure rusher, Jacobs represents an upgrade over Aaron Jones. However, his full integration into Matt LaFleur's system hinges on refining his receiving skills. As one of the top five highest-paid running backs, there's every expectation that Jacobs will rise to the occasion. With him performing at his elite level, there's reason to believe that Green Bay's rushing offense could emerge as one of the league's best in 2024.

 

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Felipe is a Brazilian Packers writer covering the #GoPackGo for CheeseheadTV, Zone Coverage, and Packers Talk. Additionally, he contributes to Cheeseheads Brazil.

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8 points
 

Comments (35)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
packer132's picture

June 14, 2024 at 03:25 pm

I was not happy when the Packers decided to let Jones go. The NFL is about salaries, staying healthy, and speed.
Aaron was a great teammate and also a good receiver. He will be 30 in December and Jacobs is a little younger. Running backs get injured often, though Jones played most games until last season.
I am excited more about Lloyd and a stronger and more determined Dillon. Jacobs should be fine and am not worried about the running back room. This team will have a lot of playmakers on offense and the defense SHOULD be a huge improvement. I can't wait for week #1.

12 points
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kozmo's picture

June 14, 2024 at 03:43 pm

Very sad Aaron is gone but I wish him the best. When he was on the field he wa very special....

8 points
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Oppy's picture

June 14, 2024 at 04:24 pm

Throwing out gross career numbers doesn't help us determine "who the better back" is.
A start would be comparing efficiency stats.

Example- don't tell us RB 1 has x more yards after contact than RB 2; tell us how many yards after contact per carry RB 1 and RB 2 have.

I think another factor in seeing how all this shakes out will be availability and utilization. Aaron Jones has always had durability issues, and during many games where he was active, he was on a strict pitch count. The Packers learned very early on with Jones that they needed to apply snap count management in order to keep Jones' availability anywhere near an acceptable level.

Jacobs, on the other hand, when healthy, has been ridden hard by the raiders and basically ground into the dirt running into heavy boxes his entire career. He has had some injury issues, particularly last season, but there's a reason he has more career carries than Jones despite a shorter career.

It will be interesting to see if MLF uses Jacobs like a workhorse back, or if the Packers stay with the concept of load management that they applied to Jones. If they go with a load management approach, it will be interesting to see how Josh Jacobs' body responds and if he becomes more efficient and productive than he already has been in his career, especially down the stretch during the long season.

I don't think Jones and Jacobs can fairly be compared in an apples-to-apples fashion in a "which is the better back" scenario. They're two entirely different styles of back, but I think they both have similar impact on an offense. I do think Jacobs with be very productive in this offense, and I think his efficiency will set career highs in 2024 as he won't be running into 8 or 9 man boxes regularly with Green Bay and he probably wont be getting 240+ carries like he routinely did with the Raiders.

Aaron Jones will certainly be missed, but I believe the Packers will find themselves being productive with their new back(s) and will continue to win- It will just be with a different approach in terms of the ground game.

8 points
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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

June 14, 2024 at 04:59 pm

The question is impossible to answer right now. Seeing how the season plays out for both guys is the only way to know. I will say I'm excited about the GB RB room as a whole, with a rejuvenated Dillon, an experienced productive player like Jacobs (and all around good locker room guy like Jones is) along with a young potential star in Lloyd!

6 points
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Leatherhead's picture

June 14, 2024 at 05:21 pm

Jones was a real good player for us, but he did miss 6 games, and he is going to be on the bad side of 30 real soon.

I can't speak for this year for certain, but I'm pretty sure that over the next four years, Jacobs is going to be more productive than Jones.

10 points
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Starrbrite's picture

June 16, 2024 at 10:06 am

Yep—what I think.

0 points
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Bitternotsour's picture

June 14, 2024 at 05:29 pm

Aaron Jones in purple will take add at least a second to his forty time. Let's face it, Aaron Jones was a system back, leaving Green Bay is going to cost him.

-1 points
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Oppy's picture

June 14, 2024 at 05:40 pm

Aaron Jones is definitely not a system back.

If anything, running behind an OL where run blocking is without question a secondary concern has limited Jones.

I do think leaving GB will cost him, but I think it will be in terms of his ability to stay healthy. I don't believe for a second that MN will show the restraint and care that GB has always provided Jones in terms of load management. They're probably going to run Jones into the ground... and he's going to be injured. A lot.

4 points
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Leatherhead's picture

June 14, 2024 at 06:04 pm

You think Jones was limited by his (lack of) run blocking in GB?

Aaron Jones, in 11 games, averaged 5.2 yards/touch. That was one of the highest yards/touch of any RB in the league. He catches about three passes per game and runs from scrimmage about 12 or 13 times.

The thing is.....when you have a QB that can hurt you throwing, you can't just load up the box against the run, so Jones actually benefited from being on a passing team. And he benefited from sharing time with Williams and Dillon, too.

Math says that if we put 3 in the pattern the defense covers with 5 and that leaves 6 defenders against 6 blockers plus the RB. Jones benefited from that, and so will Jacobs.

1 points
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Oppy's picture

June 16, 2024 at 02:24 am

"You think Jones was limited by his (lack of) run blocking in GB?"

Yes. The Packers OL is, overall, average at best when it comes to run blocking. Jones, like any back, would have produced more run yardage if he had better blocking, and the offensive line has a good deal of room to improve on run blocking.

Believe it or not, you can see light boxes and still benefit from better run blocking- the two aren't mutually exclusive.

1 points
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Bitternotsour's picture

June 16, 2024 at 10:26 am

Jones was the definition of a system back. He had his carries limited because of his fragility all the way back to McCarthy. He benefited from a throw-first offense with a hall of fame quarterback, and consequently, his longevity was extended. I'm not denigrating the player, the system suited him completely.

I will again reiterate, the purple uniform will downgrade his performances going forward. Try as he might, he'll never get past the Vikings losing ways.

0 points
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13TimeChamps's picture

June 16, 2024 at 11:13 am

Every team operates within a system and uses their players accordingly. Aaron Jones would have been successful on any team that had a decent Oline, regardless of the color of their uniform.

Every team in the current NFL has a "throw first" offense, not just GB. Not rushing him 20-25 times a game hardly makes him a "system back", whatever the hell that is.

2 points
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Oppy's picture

June 16, 2024 at 01:45 pm

13TimeChamps already shared the same sentiments, but I'll repeat them.

The term 'system back' is an insinuation that the production is a result of the offensive system and has little to do with the player's talent, or that the player has a a limited, specific skillset that makes him ideal for a specific offensive system but lacks the general talent to thrive in others.

Jones would succeed in any offensive system because he's a talented back. As I have mentioned elsewhere previously, I do think he'll suffer in Minnesota due to his fragility, but that doesn't make him a system back.

2 points
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GregC's picture

June 14, 2024 at 05:46 pm

Funny the article mentions that Jacobs has never caught a TD pass in the NFL, but the picture at the top of the page shows him doing something that looks an awful lot like catching a TD pass. It must have been either a two-point conversion or a TD pass that was called back due to penalty. Anyway, I think his lack of receiving TDs is a statistical fluke, aided by the fact that when you get close to the goal line, you have a good chance of running it into the end zone with Jacobs, so why throw it to him? I would love for the Packers to draw up a play in game #1 to get Jacobs his first career TD reception. He's a good receiver, and there's no reason that can't happen.

4 points
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Leatherhead's picture

June 14, 2024 at 06:07 pm

IF we keep doing what we've done, he'll catch about 3 passes a game.

Nothing against Jacobs as a receiver, but every pass we throw to him is a pass that is not thrown to somebody else. I want to see Reed and Wicks and Doubs getting targets.

3 points
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Bitternotsour's picture

June 15, 2024 at 10:27 am

You want weapons to have the ball in their hands. Jacobs is a legitimate weapon whether he's handed the ball or he's catching it. I like Jacobs to get more yards after the contact than any of our wideouts. My assumption is that if he catches more than 3 balls per game our run/pass ratio is <40/60

0 points
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Johnblood27's picture

June 14, 2024 at 08:24 pm

I think Jacobs dropped the pass in the picture...

1 points
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GregC's picture

June 14, 2024 at 08:35 pm

Ah, hadn't thought of that. He doesn't quite have it secured.

1 points
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dobber's picture

June 15, 2024 at 10:04 am

He's caught 144 passes over the last three seasons. The fact that none have ended with him in the end zone feels like a stat that's ripe for regression.

1 points
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Spock's picture

June 15, 2024 at 10:21 am

Look at the picture again. Jacobs is catching a SIDELINE ball as the goalpost at the left of the picture is clearly at a 90° angle to the picture taking view. It is NOT an endzone shot IMHO.

0 points
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GregC's picture

June 15, 2024 at 10:29 am

The part of the field that says BEARS in it is clearly the end zone.

0 points
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Spock's picture

June 16, 2024 at 10:51 am

Oops, my bad. I missed that obviously. :(

0 points
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dobber's picture

June 15, 2024 at 10:32 am

We've also reached the era of needing to ask ourselves just how genuine a picture might be.

Could also be a preseason game.

1 points
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DragonSilk's picture

June 14, 2024 at 07:06 pm

The first time Jacobs steps on the field with that "G" on his helmet he'll be my guy. As are all Packers. That said Jones had something special that wasn't defined by speed and strength. There was an excitement about his running style that made my heart leap every time he broke into the open.
Now he's a Viking. Meh.

4 points
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Ritzy's picture

June 14, 2024 at 07:16 pm

Nice stat breakdown on Jones vs. Jacobs. If our line progresses, I'd like to see 1,200 yards from Jacobs and another 1200 between Dillon and Lloyd. That would keep the sticks moving and defenses honest.

1 points
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HarryHodag's picture

June 15, 2024 at 06:40 am

One of the things about fandom is the tendency to not let go of feelings for a certain player. That has been true since the start of the game. But the reality is Father Time is undefeated and the NFL is mostly a young man's game.
With Aaron Jones' injury history the team would be rolling the dice again on a player who has had significant down time. If you listened to Gute's comments recently it was clear the team felt it was time to move on. I think they would have kept him if Jones would have come back on a team-friendly contract. This doesn't demean what Jones did for the Packers but rather a business decision to balance an aging player against a younger player who has proven durability and production. This doesn't mean Jacobs can't be injured but the team is rolling the dice he will stay healthy. I also have good feelings for MarShawn Lloyd who many are calling a 'sleeper' prospect.
Matt LaFleur wants to run the ball along with having a razor-sharp passing attack. My belief is he will have both.

3 points
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Swisch's picture

June 16, 2024 at 08:38 pm

Aaron Jones had a great run with the Packers of seven seasons -- just a couple less than Hornung and Taylor.
As a fan who likes to keep our players as long as possible, I'm good with the decision to move on from Jones as a player who has been injury prone and is getting older but presumably still wanted a large salary.
As far as I can tell, neither side was in the wrong; and I wish both the departed Jones and the remaining Packers all the best in 2024.
***
Generally speaking, it seems the way to go for teams is signing players to their second contracts, not their third contracts.
The older players have to be willing to sign for less to be able to stay.
Also, I hope these older players consider retirement before they are too banged up for the rest of their lives, if not largely crippled.
Take the money accumulated over a career and run into the sunset.
***
Maybe the Packers could offer their players a kind of retirement plan in which ten percent of their salary goes into a fund for safe keeping until they leave the game.
There could be a reasonable rate of interest.
In any case, at the least the principle of the fund (what was paid in by the player over the years) would be guaranteed to come back to the player.
I can see where young guys suddenly rich would have trouble keeping track of all their money; trouble managing their spending; and trouble avoiding requests for financial help from relatives and friends.
A retirement plan would mean that there would be at least something for them to take with them upon leaving the NFL for the start of the rest of their lives.

0 points
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13TimeChamps's picture

June 16, 2024 at 09:42 pm

"Maybe the Packers could offer their players a kind of retirement plan...."

Players who accumulate at least 3 years of service are eligible for a NFL pension as well as health coverage for the rest of their lives. The average pension amount is $43,000 per year, with many players receiving considerably more than that.

I believe that would qualify as a "retirement plan".

2 points
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Swisch's picture

June 17, 2024 at 11:17 am

13TC, thanks for the good info.
Fans helping fans is one of the benefits of CHTV.

1 points
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ricky's picture

June 15, 2024 at 08:54 am

The question is whether Jacobs is on the down side of his career. The Raiders used Jacobs as a workhorse. 1305 carries in five years, including a punishing 340 carries in 2022, when he peaked as the NFL rushing champ. This could well be a similar situation to how the Cowboys ran Demarco Murray a lot, and burned him out in a few years. Will the Packers be depending on Jacobs to take the bulk of the carries? Or will there be a rotation, so he can stay fresher for the long run, like they did with Jones? The development of Lloyd, and whether the Packers keep Wilson or Dillon could make a difference. Was this a good move? Personally, I really liked the backfield of Jones and Jamaal Williams.

0 points
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dobber's picture

June 15, 2024 at 10:08 am

Aaron Jones played a lot of snaps in the Packers' offense. We know what he could do in that role and how the offense blended around him.

Josh Jacobs hasn't played a single snap in the Packers' offense. We know nothing about how LaF plans to use him or plans to blend the offensive pieces around him.

I don't expect that LaF will just plug him in and ask him to do what Aaron Jones did. If he does, that tells you that LaF is a more limited and unimaginative play caller than we've been hoping. How they use Jacobs and how the offense gels around him is one of the things I'm looking forward to seeing in 2024.

3 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

June 15, 2024 at 10:49 am

Is Josh an upgrade over AJ? I will let you know next year at this time.

Will Jacobs average more than 10-12 carries per game...will he rush for more yards...earn more receiving yards...pass block more effectively, be more efficient with his touches...be a leader, locker room asset?

More information needed at this time. But I do like JJ's odds to make Packer fans smile as much as Jonesy did.

2 points
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PhantomII's picture

June 15, 2024 at 11:01 am

If we did not have so much WR talent I would have made A.Jones more of a WR and extended his career a bit. I love Jones and really like Jacobs story. Jacobs is the bruiser RB we never had since Williams left in FA. This run game really only works with commitment from the coaching staff and Gute to build the OL into a real "RUN AT YOU" game and we have not done that well against Elite Defenses. If our OL can attain this type of run game we will not be bullied by any defenses in the NFL and it will open up the play action a lot. We have always NEEDED to win on the ground or thru the air and when you can't do one of these at all....you check out of the playoffs early. We will miss Jones but in order to get to the show, we have ALWAYS needed a tough run game and that means bigger, stronger and tougher OL.....As well as a punishing RB, let's hope this aligns in 2024-25 with our post season aspirations.

1 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

June 15, 2024 at 03:05 pm

Borderline relevance here but at least three writers noted how MarShawn looks like he's playing at a different speed. It's difficult to estimate how many touches he gets this year but LaFleur seems excited to give him some looks.

2 points
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greengold's picture

June 17, 2024 at 07:06 am

I believe hands down that Josh Jacobs is the better RB between he and Aaron Jones. Nothing against Jones, who I really like.

While Jacobs & jones are remarkably similar in many advanced stat categories, Jacobs earned his stat totals averaging more defenders in the box (7.2), and against more stacked fronts (35.2%). Conversely, Aaron Jones had a much higher light front carry rate (39.4%).

Jacobs' snap share ranked #5 in his career with 76.8% vs. Jones' #34 career ranking just short of 50%. Jacobs ranked #11 in carries with 233. Jones #38/142.

As a receiver, Jacobs had more targets in the passing game (#19/54 vs. #27/43), with both exhibiting similar efficiency & production totals. Jacobs dominator ranking at #11 (30.2) wins out over Jones' #35 (16.1).

Josh Jacobs is 3 years younger than Aaron Jones, and won AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2019 and AP Offensive Player of the Year in 2022 (a season in which he rushed for 1.653 yds, with an astounding 90 forced missed tackles). Jacobs had 1.156 yards after contact!

Jacobs (#28 overall) also edges Jones (#33 Overall) in pass blocking (56.3/50.6) and pass blocking % (19.0/10.8).

Yeah, he's that good... I see Josh Jacobs as a clear upgrade at RB.

1 points
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