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Packers' Aaron Jones named among NFL's top breakout players for 2019

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Packers' Aaron Jones named among NFL's top breakout players for 2019

-- It stopped being a secret two years ago: The Green Bay Packers have a young star in their backfield.

Aaron Jones has more than demonstrated his unique skill set while carrying -- no pun intended -- the responsibilities that come with being a starting running back in the NFL. But the 2019 campaign -- his third -- presents his greatest opportunity yet.

With a new head coach in Matt LaFleur and an offense centered around operating through multiple rushers in a zone-blocking scheme, Jones has the chance to break open the rushing ranks even more than he already has and put his name at the top of a plethora of fantasy football enthusiasts' lists.

Keeping all of this in mind, Bucky Brooks of NFL.com believes Jones is one of the biggest, young players with breakout potential this upcoming season:

"Matt LaFleur's previous experience with the Rams and Falcons should give him a greater appreciation for the running game's impact on the play of the quarterback. Jones has teased Packer backers with a robust yards-per-carry average of 5.5 in each of his first two NFL seasons (214 total carries), but he was an underutilized RB1/RB2 in the previous system. Although LaFleur has discussed using a committee approach in Green Bay, Jones' explosiveness and versatility could make him a 1,000-yard rusher and 50-catch receiver as the team's lead back."

Jones' 2018 season was stunted in the sense of being suspended for the first two regular-season games, not seeing his first action until week three against the Washington Redskins. A game in which he touched the ball just seven times.

The Packers have also seen Jones undergo durability issues. Both of his first two years in the league were shortened slightly by MCL injuries in each of his knees. He was forced to miss the final pair of games last season.

With a new offense in the process of implementation, a healthy Jamaal Williams and newly-drafted Dexter Williams, who the team drafted in the sixth round last month, the Packers should have a healthy rotation of carries between all three of their running backs. Doing so will likely take any pressure off of Jones shouldering the load to an excessive extent.

There's no doubt that Jones will be the lead dog in terms of receiving his fair share of opportunities this season, but the Packers also need to handle that possibility delicately. The Packers could very well see Jones function as more of a receiver in LaFleur's offense as well, which would make sense considering Jones is coming off of the best receiving year of his career with 35 catches, 206 yards and a touchdown under his belt.

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (49) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Coldworld's picture

And hopefully it won’t be so obvious that he is going to be off the field for entire drives or only there to run. I think the new offensive approach will suit him.

TheVOR's picture

Agree, MM was a dip-stuff. It was like, gee, Jones just ripped off a 30+ yarder, lets make sure Williams gets a few drives or we wouldn't be "RUNNING BACK BY COMMITTEE" .. Gosh I hated that. I wonder if MM actually knew how stupid that really was, like he'd never heard the term "Bell Cow".... Which unfortunately brings me to my next point...

Aaron Jones isn't an every down back. Sorry folks, I've been watching this game for 56 years, thru the Lombardi era. Aaron Jones doesn't have an every down body, he just doesn't..

Now, with that said, he could still be a Phillip Linsey kind of back in GB, a huge contributor, he's just not a Bell Cow. In fact, we don't have one on the roster! Doah!!! Hey, I'm not the GM, Guty is, don't blame me for being the Voice Of Reason.. TheVOR ...... Someone has to bring reality to this untethered wild out of control media and their Rah Rah optimism!

IceBowl's picture

TheVOR,

"Aaron Jones doesn't have an every down body, he just doesn't.."

5'9"
HEIGHT
32 1/2"
ARM LENGTH
208LBS.
WEIGHT
9 1/2"
HANDS

What part is not an every down body part? What body do you need for an every down back?

Wondering?

CheesyTex's picture

"What body do you need for an every down back?"

IMO a durable body. Does not have to be huge. Frank Gore comes to mind.

jannes bjornson's picture

The Steelers had enough brains to take the Frank Gore clone, Benny Snell in the fourth.

baldski's picture

What does a durable body look like? What are the parameters? Please inform us Packer Backers.

Demon's picture

Or Warrick Dunn.

dobber's picture

Cookie for you, demon!

Old School's picture

Emmitt Smith is another guy who had a pretty good career and wasn't real big.

Jerome Bettis was a big power back who took a ton of hits his rookie year and I heard him say that he realized he had to find a way to avoid those crushing hits or he wasn't going to last. Running backs are tough guys almost by definition but you've got to slip off of the really hard hits, and that's what Bettis learned, and it's what Emmitt Smith did too.

I AM HOPING that Jones can average 15 touches/per game for all 16 games. That'd be a 50% increase over last year. I'm also hoping that Jamal Williams does the same, and that both of these guys are available for the whole season. I think we need one more guy, personally.

I understand everybody wants Jones, but I'd try to keep him healthy past Thanksgiving so he could help us on the stretch drive and playoffs.

TheVOR's picture

First off, one that stays on the field. Well, lets see, Maybe Emmitt Smith, Franko Harris, Marcus Allen, Larry Csonka, Erick Dickerson, Thurman Thomas, Marshall Faulk, Toney Dorsett, Jerome Bettis...? How many do you want? Notice anything about that list? Bell Cow, and maybe another major characteristic? I think this kind of makes the point. Also, a final word here, I love Aaron Jones! He my favorite RB on the roster, hands down. He has a huge roll in this offense. Just saying, we don't have the bell cow.. For team that has come out and made a statement like "We will run the football and balance the offense".. Just saying.. You should also know I absolutely love Phillip LInsey in Denver, he's 5' 8" and 190, and he's a Baller, but he already got busted up, and he's complimented by Rolls Royce Freeman. Linsey will never be a Bell Cow, he doesn't have a NFL body to be one. Doesn't mean he doesn't have a place in the NFL, he's just never going to withstand anything other than a shared specialized role. Same with AJ.. Just my opinion.. You asked, there it is!

dobber's picture

"He my favorite RB on the roster, hands down. He has a huge roll in this offense. "

Jelly? Or Cinnamon? ;)

jannes bjornson's picture

Emmit ran behind the last premier offensive line in this league for a running back. He still carried 210 lbs on his 5-9" frame. You need a 220# guy if you are looking for the lead dog and a 240# Fullback to help clear the alley. LeFleur will go one-cut blasts and hope the guy brakes the corner If they want the "bell cow" you have have to draft them early.

fthisJack's picture

he's talking about an Eddie Lacey type body.......a big bruiser that never got hurt!

splitpea1's picture

Well, if Jones isn't an every down back or doesn't have an "every down body" as you say, you would have to go with "running back by committee", wouldn't you? I don't see the problem with it anyway--it keeps everybody fresh.

What I would hope to see with the new offense is AR getting the ball more to Jones in open space; if he stays healthy, he could really rack up some receiving yards-- a lot, lot more than the couple of hundred he had last season. Get him the ball on some screens and let him use his elusiveness to do some serious damage.

TheVOR's picture

Or... You'd go draft a legit prospect, rather than slews of late round mediocre like talent, hoping to mine a Diamond from the coal pile? This isn't that hard people, you pay due diligence to the position with better prospects that have a chance to be the Bell Cow, that actually have some real blue chip talent. I hated this about Thompson, he was always combing the dregs trying to find a guy who could actually play, reinforcing the false notion that he was a miracle worker and some genius GM, while blowing 1st round pick after 1st round pick. Anyone who thinks we have a running back stable on board is kidding themselves. Not a proven every down back in the bunch! Just saying.

I loved Eddie Lacy, until he turned into Fat Eddie Lacy and destroyed his body. But to point, nice pick right there in the 2nd round for a guy with Genuine talent coming out, and it paid off well for 2 years, until he decided he could play at 250, 255, then 265 and blew up his body. What a shame, too much money, to much deep fried..

jannes bjornson's picture

I agree with you there. Run a pure WCO and get the ball to the RBs quickly to set up the mismatch with LBs. Still have visions of Roger Craig annihilating defenses with Rathman clearing the way. Belichick follows Walsh's design with his running game . Packers should get a fullback into the mix.

Duke Divine's picture

Splitpea is right. Committee can work if the coach has a feel for the game rather than just rigidly marching his system\game plan out there with no regard for the game flow because it's "what we do." Tater style.

PeteK's picture

I love Aaron's explosiveness, but his injury history really worries me. If he can stay healthy and along with our improved line ; he could eclipse 1000 yds by game 9. However, I'm very happy that Dexter Williams fell to us even though his measurables are similar to Jamal ,he has a knack of following his blockers and turning on that second gear. In my opinion, a key to our success this year is the running game because it can take the pressure off our young receivers, keep AR healthy , and just open up the playaction plays.

Lare's picture

Guys like Jones, King and Burks are definitely going to be on the hot seat and have to stay healthy & productive this season. I think they have the the talent & ability, but as they say- the biggest ability is availability. IR this season could end their careers in the NFL.

Coldworld's picture

I doubt Jones is on the hot seat, but it sure would be nice. Burks I don’t think necessarily either. One injury is not a pattern.

dobber's picture

Jones and King have shown they can play (Burks? Not yet). Those guys on rookie deals are worth waiting on. Some players figure out how to take care of themselves and how to play to minimize injury (a great example is Paul Molitor (admittedly, baseball), who struggled with injuries early in his career but figured it out). When it comes time to pay them? That's a different matter...

dobber's picture

I think you have hit on the key in that the run game needs to be a consistent threat so the Khalil Macks and Danielle Hunters of the world have to play honest before they try to rip #12's legs off. Whatever the case, until he shows he can't do it, ARod is going to be the one to carry this offense. If you look at LaF's last 3 stops in the league (ATL, LAR, TEN), each of those teams was in the top 10 in terms of run pct. I expect the commitment to run the ball to be there (remember that MM came to GB saying he wanted to run the football...and said it just about every year), but ARod is the straw that stirs the drink.

Old School's picture

I'm going to have to disagree with this one Dobber. I don't think we should just rely on Rodgers to carry the offense.

IMO, we could use Jones and Williams to keep the chains and the clock moving. And it keeps Rodgers from getting hit so much, and I just think that at his age and with his injury history, you've got to make it a priority to minimize the hits.

That means throwing 30 times a game instead of 40, and throwing more short routes likes bubble screens. That's basically a long handoff. You play with six blockers in to protect and only 4 in the pattern.

Yes, maybe at times there will be a real desire to throw it around a lot, but over the course of a season, I think if Rodgers is healthy after Thanksgiving we're going to have a lot better chance at the playoffs.

Hand it off and throw short. Let other guys carry the load so that Rodgers doesn't have to.

dobber's picture

I think we really DO agree. The offense will go through #12 until he shows he just isn't that kind of player anymore. When you have a player of that caliber, you don't minimize him...but they have to make opponents defend the whole field and they have to make defenses game plan to stop the run game so they can't just pin their ears back and bury the QB.

Old School's picture

I'm not saying to minimize Rodgers. I'm saying keep him well-maintained for the post-Thanksgiving run. Run more. Quick simple throws. But don't let him get hit.

Then, when the games are really counting, like our home game against the Bears, and on the road at Minnesota, we'll have a healthy Rodgers. That's when the division is going to be decided. So why risk Rodgers health on scramble plays or 40 passes a game in September and October?

We need him on the field, and that's going to mean taking the ball out of his hands more. Let the team help him help them.

stockholder's picture

Compare Rodgers to Favre again. If Favre was expected to do it. So should Rodgers. Dorsey Levens and Edgar Bennett didn't have to have a break out year. It's all about the QB getting the ball to the weapon. Using Jones to Much will be a mistake. You need more then 1 back. As long as Rodgers is the QB. (Don't take the ball out of his hands.) The packers don't have A. Green. Jones is NO workhorse. The offensive Line must Pass block. Thats the only way their going to help Rodgers. If they run to much, they'll be helping the other team. And putting more pressure on Rodgers to win at all costs.

PeteK's picture

Yes , and then a playaction into a bomb down field, baby!

Archie's picture

AJ is the CM of offense i.e., he plays the game at 110% and throws his body around big time to find & hit the cracks. Those type of players tend to get injured in the NFL at a higher rate than normal, PERIOD. Maybe Dexter will turn out to be the bell cow, maybe not. I was hoping for a R2 or R3 pick to be spent on RB. Didn't happen. Losing the two 4ths didn't help. If these 3 RBs don't produce enough this year, then next year we must get ourselves a bell cow. Remember Csonka, Kick & Morris? That's what we should be looking for. Maybe AJ is a Morris type role player. Maybe J Williams is a poor man's Kick. Is Dexter our Csonka?

btw - the biggest condemnation of MM's offense scheme and play calling is that with this QB, he was unable to make the play action pass an effective weapon. I look forward to LaFleur changing that.

PeteK's picture

I watched a highlight of Dexter running behind a two guards pulling and then breaking open into daylight . It brought shivers down my spine.

Coach JV's picture

I have always thought this kid is gonna be a superstar. One thing that's a hair misleading is the 2 games he missed at the end of last year...

Yes... he was injured, but not to the extent that he could not have played if the games mattered. Had we been in serious contention for the playoffs, he likely would have played. The MCL was actually still okay enough to play on. But why risk it?

I think this is his breakout year. Look at what LaF did with Henry last year... granted he had no other options with Mariota hurt a lot... So yeah, I think AJ breaks out!

Stu M's picture

He missed 2 at the start of the season too. Gotta keep him away from the dope.

Coach JV's picture

True dat... Lol

holmesmd's picture

Moron

IceBowl's picture

Coach JV,

One step further, the Pack needs/will be an offensive Juggernaut. Everything is in place for 35 or more pts/game.

If MLF is half of what is advertised, the Pack will score a lot, as long as ARod can get rid of the ball in 2-3 (not more than 4) seconds.

Qoojo's picture

No doubt that he has the talent to be great. It's all about staying healthy for him.

IceBowl's picture

The dumbest thing is getting excited about anything that someone who could not predict the rookie draft (or anything) wants to predict now.

I would guess all Packer fans have a better idea of Jones' talent than someone reading a stats report and viewing the OL additions. (APro QB assumed)

albert999's picture

Wow
Angry

porupack's picture

I'm convinced, factoring in the MLF experience w other teams, Jones to be breakout.

So MLF, has agreed to take on all CHTV 'need' list for offense collected last year;
1) TE is going to be used in plays, and TE can both block and be the hot read in the same game plan.
2) Blocking and tackling will be coached
3) A successful run (better yet, a 30 yard run) will reward other run plays
4) Play that other Aaron,
5) More route variation and scheme receivers open
6) Return to slants, screen plays in the playbook.
7) re-energize Rodgers. 3 second hold time max.
Oh, and way back there somewhere...
8) no punting, and fair catch evermore.

Lets see, what did I miss.
A very nice to-do list, MLF. Here are my notes.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

IDK if Jones can hold up to 300 carries like a typical "Cow Bell" back gets. If he can take 250 carries at 4 yards a carry he can get to 1000 yards. I think that's not an unreasonable reasonable expectation for him. I would be pleased with 900 yards rushing and 500 yards recieving from him.

Old School's picture

900 yards rushing, even at 5.0 average, would take 180 carries. 500 yards in receptions would take about 50 catches (and more throws, of course).

That'd be 230 touches on the season. I'd be totally happy with that. But that's about a 50% improvement on what he did last year.

I'd like to have three RBs who could do 15 touches a game, and then play the two healthiest.

Nononsense's picture

The magic number for Jones has been 15. Give him at least 15 carries and up to 20-25 total touches per game and we will have our first 1000+ yard back since Lacy.

He may or may not a have the body to handle bell cow duties but all we know for sure is he doesnt have NFL MCLs. I could be wrong but that's been his only injuries so far.

dobber's picture

How many true 'bell cow' backs are there in the league anymore? Not many. Certainly not as many as there were prior to the 1990s when the rule shifts toward the passing game really started to skew offenses. Situational play and packages have changed how most positions are used. I think Jones's sweet spot will be 20-ish touches per game, especially if there's a competent 1b to his 1a.

Handsback's picture

I don't think Jones had the strength to be an every down back either. That being said....he has had two off-seasons to build himself up so that he could take that punishment that he's sure to get in MLF's system. So this year we will see what his endurance factor is and how much Williams helps.

PatrickGB's picture

When I think of “Bell Cow” backs I think of tough yardage. That is when it’s one on one against a tough D. I agree with many that he is not built for it. Williams May be a better fit for that. Durability is a legitimate concern. But in zone runs or even runs with a fullback leading the way he will do just fine. I also agree that 15 runs a game and perhaps few catches are about right for him. The team can do the rest just fine. All it takes is a few 15 yard carries to put the defense on its heels and every thing else opens up.

LambeauPlain's picture

So AJ cannot be the “bell cow” RB? I think he can be in the ML offense. The coach’s concept is to show similar formations but run multiple plays out of it.

Just having AJ on the field will cause defenses to account for him...even spy on him. That alone can create match up opportunities for his teammates.

Being a bell cow need not mean he gets 30 carries a game...but maybe 40 snaps with 15-20 carries and 5 pass targets.

I hope the RB by committee mindset left 1265 Lombardi when MM did. He was so stubborn in so many ways including “we don’t have a starter at RB, we have 3 starters”.

AJ would rip off 3-4 good runs and he’d spend the next quarter on the sidelines as the Pack next passed 70-80% of the plays. Play action to Williams was completely ignored because MMs player packages and multiple formations was well known to the opposing D and they loaded up to attack #12.

Just having AJ on the field changes the mindset of the D. Kind of like Gurley does for the Rams.

RCPackerFan's picture

Jones is special. Plain and Simple.

I do think he will have a breakout year this year. He should get more touches and the offense should be ran through the running game more.

We will have to see how LaFleur will want to rotate his RB's. But Jones should get a lot more opportunities then he had with McCarthy. One of my biggest complaints with McCarthy was that he never really figured out how to use the RB's. He would rotate them by series. Just made no sense.

Also for Jones it won't be just about running the ball. He should be a bigger factor in the passing game as well.

I am excited for Jones and our offense.

4thand1's picture

RB is the one position that young guys or rookies can excel in right away (if given the chance). MM and his stubborness failed to see it. Maybe he was worried AJ would blow a blocking assignment and get AR injured, his meal ticket. There's a new sheriff in town calling the plays now, time for some real balance.

leaerin4's picture

I think the Packers got another running back this year in the sixth round who will contribute to the running game. Dexter Williams was the most impressive running back in the Senior Bowl this year. Whatever problems he had in his senior year at Notre Dame had nothing to do with his ability as a running back. The Packers have three running backs with Jones as the stud. Jamaal Williams is the best pass blocker and is better known for that then his running game. Williams the rookie will get to showcase his abilities during preseason games and keep your eyes on this kid. He will see playing time this season and he's an up and comer. GO PACK GO!!!

Bryan Chisholm's picture

Should have been on this list last year.. a passing game that isn't so predictable with a running game (and RB) that will actually make you pay if you commit to the pass.. combined with having more than one capable receiver making plays (including TE's and RB's) with improved O line play, and a entirely new offense with a healthy Arod, should have everybody beneffiting from each other.. which is a "well oiled machine" IMO.. and this is without mentioning the fire weve built on defense in just two seasons. I'm still trying to keep expectations tempered but reasonable.. hell with the hogwash we put out on the field last season we SHOULD have still won 8-9 of those games. I highly expect a 10 win season and would kind of be disappointed if we ONLY landed a wild card spot.. but will take that happily. Obviously we can work with a wild card spot in GB ;)

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