Packers Need to Improve Their Running Game Down the Stretch

The Green Bay Packers have been getting away from the running game in recent weeks and the lack of balance on offense is an issue. The team has also gotten away from giving the ball to Aaron Jones since the team’s star running back has returned from injury.

Last week against the Colts, Green Bay ran the ball only 18 times as a team for the entire game. They held a 28-14 lead at halftime but only ran the ball four times in the second half for a total of 10 yards.

The offense stalled after a strong start and ran only six plays in the third quarter and suffered two straight three-and-outs. They didn’t score any points until the final drive of regulation time when they kicked a field goal to force overtime.

For the game, Jones ran only 10 times for 41 yards. If you take out his 15-yard run, he ran nine times for 26 yards, an average of less than three-yards per carry. Jamaal Williams ran only five times for 12 yards and the Packers had only 18 rushing attempts as a team with three of them being scrambles by Aaron Rodgers.

Against Jacksonville, Jones ran only 13 times for 46 yards while Williams added eight carries for 40 yards. The Packers did not run the ball effectively despite facing the Jaguars poorly-ranked rush defense which was near the bottom of the league statistically before the game.

Jones was more active against San Francisco with 15 carries for 58 yards. Backup Tyler Ervin added 24 yards in eight carries. The Packers scored 34 points and coasted to victory after leading 34-3 with 6:15 left in the game.

But the Packers have been getting away from running the football over the last two games. That was one reason the offense was inconsistent against Jacksonville and stalled out in the second half against the Colts.

The Green Bay running game was off to a strong start this season with Jones’ 168-yard effort against Detroit being the highlight. After four games, the Packers rushing offense was ranked fourth in the NFL. Now they have dropped to a very average 14th.

Head coach Matt LaFleur admitted earlier this week that the Packers do need to run the ball better. “It just makes you a much more complete football team,” LaFleur told reporters. “Obviously we know we have to run the ball better, and I've got to be more committed to calling some plays...and making sure that we have good looks to run the football into and then we have to execute better, obviously.”

One issue is that the Packers are giving Jones the ball fewer times. It’s a fine line since the team is always cautious not to overwork their top back, but the stats don’t lie. Jones has played eight game this season thus far. When he has 15-or-more rushing attempts, the Packers are 5-0. When Jones rushes fewer than 15 times in a game, the Packers are 1-2.

The overall team rushing numbers are also similar. In the three games the Packers ran the ball fewer than 25 times, the team is 0-3. When they run the ball 25 or more times, they have a perfect 7-0 record. When the Packers run the ball more than 25 times, they average 35 points per game. When they run the ball fewer than 25 times in a game, they average just 21 points per game.

This is the time of year the Packers need to rely on Jones and their other running backs more. The weather is getting colder and windier and we may have some rain and snow games on the schedule in the coming weeks. The passing game may be limited by weather conditions and the Packers will need their running game to be ready to carry a bigger load.

Last season, Jones came through with a strong finish. He gained 100 or more yards in three of the final four games of 2019 including a big 154-yard, two touchdown performance in the division-clinching victory over the Vikings in Week 16. In two of those four contests, Jones carried the ball more than 20 times including a career-high 25 carries in the season finale in Detroit. The Packers won all four games and Jones finished the campaign with 1,084 yards, his first career 1,000-plus yard season.

This year, Jones missed two games due to injury, but the Packers will need him ready to go for the stretch drive. They need to run the football more consistently, which will help set up the play-action pass game that is such a big part of the Green Bay offense.

Jones needs 466 yards in the final six games to get his second consecutive thousand-yard season. That’s an average of just under 78 yards rushing per game. Jones is certainly capable of that, but only if he gets the ball more down the stretch to make it possible.

By getting the ball to Jones and Williams more on the ground, the Packers can restore the balance to their offense and make it more unpredictable and dangerous. They are also averaging 14 more points-per-game.

LaFleur has noticed the problem and clearly wants to address it. On Wednesday, he told the media, “There’s so much that goes into it. Are we asking our players to go against the best looks? Are we scheming it up to give them the best opportunity? But I think it’s just more or less getting all 11 guys on the same page and making sure that everybody is executing their responsibility. If one guy is a little bit off or we’re a little bit off on a combination block or maybe our back’s track is a little bit off, if they don’t press it to the line of scrimmage, then you’re running game’s not going to be as effective.”

The return of Allen Lazard, the Packers best run-blocking receiver, is also something that should help the running game get untracked in the final six games. “I think one thing, too, that we’ve always stressed is making sure that the perimeter blocking is up to par,” LaFleur added. “Obviously, when we lost Allen [Lazard] that physical presence that he brings definitely adds a new dimension to the run game.”

LaFleur is determined to get more balance on offense. “We’re going to stick with it and keep fighting, scratching and clawing figuring out how to get this thing going because we have a lot of faith in our runners, Aaron, Jamaal, Swerve [Tyler Ervin] when he’s back there, A.J. [Dillon] when he’s able to come back,” LaFleur said. “Those backs are really good and so for us to be at our best offensively, we’ve got to get the run game going and those are explosive players and we’ve got to get them the touches.”

Jones, Williams and A.J. Dillon once he returns from the Covid-19 reserve list, will have to get the job done behind a Packers offensive line that has done a good job opening holes for the run most of this year. The rest of the season will depend on it.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (46)

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

November 26, 2020 at 12:25 pm

Notwithstanding COVID, Dillon has been all but MIA. Time to show what he's got.

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GilMartin's picture

November 26, 2020 at 01:10 pm

The key to getting Dillon the field once he's cleared again is his pass blocking and route running. Until he improves in those areas, LaFleur an the coaching staff won't trust him to be out there too much. Thanks for commenting, CheesyTex and have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

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joejetson's picture

November 26, 2020 at 04:08 pm

How do we know Dillon can't pass block or run routes when Lefluer never puts him in those situations? I remember a nice play he made in his last game where he took a swing pass, beat the defender to the edge and turned it upfield for a first down. But then he got covid and we haven't seen him since. I'd love to see him get in there and.have a.big back available for the short yardage situations. The short yardage failures have been coming back to haunt them lately.

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Stroh's picture

November 26, 2020 at 09:21 pm

Seriously?! How do we know? Well "we" may noy but there's this thing called practice and in practices the coach can find our if he's making the right decisions when it comes to blocking and receiving! Until you do it in practice the coaches won't trust him to do it in the game!

Damn man, it doesn't get more basic and you failed!

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Bearmeat's picture

November 27, 2020 at 01:32 pm

You really specialize in being a jerk, don't you, Stroh? Yes. You're right. But for the love of all things holy, stop being an AHole.

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Stroh's picture

November 28, 2020 at 08:56 pm

Hey its not my fault he spews ingnorance.

He can get a more favorable response just by using the bare minimum of common sense.

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 27, 2020 at 12:20 pm

Get him involved with the offense. See the gap and hit it. If they crowd 8 in the box then key the swing pass and iso him on a Safety. I never buy the company line coming out of Packertown. I watched this guy for three years destroy defenses. He kicked ass when they played him earlier in the year. Just get the damn first down. Has this team ever heard about the novel concept of a counter play or inside draw/trap schemes??? Let Rodgers run hurry up more and keep the opposition on their heels chasing points.

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Stroh's picture

November 28, 2020 at 08:53 pm

Unfortunately Dillon will be returning from a serious illness. He will have lost alot of conditioning and it is likely he will be more than a month away from being able to contribute in a meaningful way. Besides that the practice time lost will mean he's unlikely to even be in position to contribute until the playoffs. Dillon has effectively been renfered useless for the remainder of this season.

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canadapacker's picture

November 26, 2020 at 12:26 pm

My issue with our running game is that we have designed our Oline as a pass protect Oline. We do not have the bulldozer type of lineman that some team have. Dont know whether it is scheme or whatever - Zone blocking etc but the reason that we do not QB sneak and do not get to run it on 4th and 1 is because we do not get push. Now we have been successful with talented running backs and I really like it when we get our motion game working to spread out the other teams. But we cannot only on having Ervine in to have the motion - we need to get others involved like Shepherd MVS to be successful when guys go down. But I hate first down miss a pass, second down run 3rd down pass . Like it is our mantra.

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GilMartin's picture

November 26, 2020 at 01:13 pm

There is definitely a problem with predictability with the play calling, I agree canadapacker. As for the o-line, most of our linemen are grading out pretty well against the run. We may not have a big run blocking mauler, but our offense, like our defense, places a higher priority on pass blocking and protecting Rodgers. As for motion, I agree, relying solely on Ervin is not the best idea, especially now with him hurt. Getting other players involved and comfortable in that role is a plus. Thanks for the comment, canadapacker.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 26, 2020 at 06:09 pm

GB's OL does grade out well in the run game, indeed first in win rate on run blocks. But that's not on power runs, but on zone runs. Those are two different things.

I think your point is well taken. The offensive linemen just aren't power guys and can't just move their opponent.

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splitpea1's picture

November 26, 2020 at 06:33 pm

....which is obviously a big problem in short yardage situations. Maybe we ought to use our comp picks on a couple of maulers if we want to start converting on those third and fourth-and-ones.

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gkarl's picture

November 27, 2020 at 09:50 am

I think we just need to improve pad level in short yardage situations. :)

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Stroh's picture

November 26, 2020 at 09:27 pm

Neither was Denvers OL, when they beat the Packers in the SB, but it didn't stop them running it down Reggie, Gilbert and the rest of the Packers front 7 collective throats!

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Since'61's picture

November 26, 2020 at 11:56 pm

Actually most of Denver’s rushes in that SB went away from Reggie White. The problem was that Sean Jones was injured for the SB and his replacement couldn’t hold the point of attack. Denver ran a few play towards Reggie side but they all went for little or no gain and Reggie was playing hurt that day. I believe that if Sean Jones was healthy the Packers would have repeated as SB winners. Thanks, Since ‘61

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 27, 2020 at 12:50 pm

Sean Jones was not on that team. He retired after the NOLA SB win.They used Wilkens as the other DE and Holmgren did not activate Darius Holland as DT depth for the Big Game, even though Terrell Davis was destroying teams on Denver's advance to the SB. They thought Elway was the guy to stop. ?? Newsome was injured and Wolf let Wayne Simmons go in a trade to K.C. Koonce injured and Seth Joyner a shell of himself. Wolf out-smarted himself.

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Stroh's picture

November 28, 2020 at 09:11 pm

The DL must work as a unit, not as individual players, similar to an OL. The backside of the DL didn't get it done either. The backside run D is every bit as important in run D and especially so against a zone run team.

Gotta Step it up oldtimer.

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ricky's picture

November 26, 2020 at 01:01 pm

Even though it's Thanksgiving, and I hate to even think it, but LaFleur sure sounded a lot like Mike McCarthy in those statements. Ugh.

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GilMartin's picture

November 26, 2020 at 01:14 pm

Kind of like deja vu all over again, huh? Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving, ricky and thanks as always for commenting.

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SwedeBayPacker's picture

November 26, 2020 at 02:25 pm

Packers need to improve... *checks notes* everything.

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GilMartin's picture

November 26, 2020 at 02:47 pm

Thanks for commenting SwedeBayPacker. I'm scared to think about what you would say if we were 3-7 instead of 7-3. Year, we do have some areas we definitely need to improve on. Thanks for commenting and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

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SwedeBayPacker's picture

November 27, 2020 at 01:27 am

Well, everything needing to improve (sans Crosby) doesn't mean everything is terrible. But barely squeaking by Jax (who are more or less tanking) is a serious red flag.

If we were 3 - 7 I'd say nuke it all, and call it a day

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pacman's picture

November 26, 2020 at 02:54 pm

Is the premise of the whole article correct? Is the lack of running causing the problem or is it being behind /needing more yardage quickly that is causing the lack of attempts?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 26, 2020 at 06:11 pm

GB hasn't really been behind - not by more than one score - in most of their games. TB yes. Never against Indy.

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Stroh's picture

November 26, 2020 at 09:33 pm

And even tho Indy was down 14 they came out and dominated the 2nd half by running! They committed to the run down 14. There was plenty of opportunities for the Packers to run the ball. They (LaFleur and Rodgers) decided not too. Probably unconconciuosly.

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 27, 2020 at 12:59 pm

Indy saw what every other team did to that D. Hey, if this guy wants to play dime making believe they won the game with 30 minutes remaining , let's smash them and break their will. In the process, regaining Momentum.
The Packers defenders do not believe in their system.

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stockholder's picture

November 26, 2020 at 02:58 pm

The constant shuffle of the Ol is obvious. The lack of money the other. Do you bust butt and stay a packer? Or stay injury free. It's Obvious that Gute's draft wasn't about now. The attempt was; To RE-load for the future. And maybe just maybe; Rodgers is changing the plays when he sees the defense line-up. LeFluer has put his trust in Rodgers. The marriage is solid. And the sticks are moving. It's said," The best offense can beat the best Defense now." And No matter how many points the packers score. This Defense just can't stop anyone. IMO- MMs offense has returned. And Rodgers will not let this offense bog down. it's still a passing team. The Ol has been set up to pass block. So why worry about the RBs? I Worry more about needing that yard.

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Lare's picture

November 26, 2020 at 03:29 pm

The Packers definitely need to improve their short yardage running game. With a decent running back behind a decent OL, 4th and 1 & 3rd and 1 should be gimme's not question marks.

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canadapacker's picture

November 26, 2020 at 07:58 pm

I did not mean to dump on our Oline - they have been doing a great job -- both in pass protection and in the running game earlier in the season. It is just the short yardage where we suffer and Lafleur needs to get his game plan tuned up in this particular area. It would help if Dillon was there to soften them up. But somehow we need to be able to convert these at least the league average 65%. Overall our third down conversion rate is 4th best but our last 4 games it is sinking.

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 27, 2020 at 01:02 pm

No Fullback.

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PeteK's picture

November 26, 2020 at 04:15 pm

Canada has alluded to the fact that we have not been run blocking well this season . I could see not having great success against a stout D like Indy, but against Minn and Jacksonville, very concerning.

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Lphill's picture

November 26, 2020 at 04:35 pm

Watching some bad teams play today yet none have a problem gaining short yardage, very frustrating.

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Lphill's picture

November 26, 2020 at 05:49 pm

Wow punters can punt more than 30 yards? I didn't know that just watching the Packers. The Cowboys punter just punted 58 yards.

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flackcatcher's picture

November 26, 2020 at 07:32 pm

In today's NFL a head coach must make an effort to run the ball for all four quarters. That's harder than you think. The pro game is bias against the run in both the offensive line rules, and the pass interference rules. Remember, the NFL wants high scores, and the running game in general doesn't do that. Now if the Packers really wanted to commit to the run game, the first thing they would have done is shift Turner inside and put Wagner in at RT. (The loss of Taylor is far more serious than we understood at the time) But in a pass first league and with a still elite QB running the show, that would be stupid. And whatever one thinks of Matt LaFleur, he is not a stupid man. These are the rules the Packers must play by. I hate them.

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Since'61's picture

November 27, 2020 at 12:05 am

The Packers should be running the ball more often. Williams has been effective in short yardage situations. I don’t understand why we don’t utilize a lead blocker in a short yardage situation.

If Jones is going to get less than 15 touches per game what would be the point of re-signing him to a large contract. 15 plays is almost always less than 25% of our snaps on offensive. Either commit to Jones and make him a major piece of the offense or move on after this season.

Thanks, Since ‘61

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Oppy's picture

November 27, 2020 at 02:05 pm

You either have to talk to #12 about that commitment, or back the HC/OC in a decision to take away Rodgers' ability to check out of / call plays at the LOS and limit the RPO plays.

Because so long as Rodgers is given flexibility at the LOS, he's going to pass before run in the majority of situations when a game is competitive.

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Stroh's picture

November 28, 2020 at 09:35 pm

Williams is effective only at running into defensive players. He's the epitome of JAG as a runner. Good receiver and terrific blocker, tho that won't be enough to get him paid by the Packers.

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Oppy's picture

November 29, 2020 at 10:56 am

Still not a good take on Williams.

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PatrickGB's picture

November 27, 2020 at 10:50 am

I gotta say it. Our offensive line is not good at run blocking. Sure, they are versatile and pretty good at many things but smash mouth run blocking is not one of them. So before we fault the coaches and running backs I think we need to look at our personal and scheme. We play to our strengths and smash mouth run game is not one of them. Our opponents know that.

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Stroh's picture

November 28, 2020 at 09:42 pm

Its not made to be a smasmouth OL. The zone blocking scheme requires OL that have mobility not on moving players backwards. LaFleur has been HC for a yr and a half. Maybe its time you learned something.

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Nate-1980's picture

November 28, 2020 at 12:24 pm

I’ll never understand why the hell they split series with Williams every game when he isn’t half the runner Jones is, it hurts the offense and is dumb. yeah, yeah keep Jones fresh, but what about when you can’t convert or keep scoring points to put away opponents or comeback in a game.. Just one of the many things I don’t get about the coaching of this team..

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Stroh's picture

November 28, 2020 at 09:49 pm

Cuz Jones is small and injury prone. They have to manage his workload to help keep him able to play every week and make it till the postseason. That should be obvious by now!

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Stroh's picture

November 28, 2020 at 09:03 pm

It's really not about just piling up rushing attempts, as the writer suggests. Running effectively is the key. With effectiveness comes more opportunities. IMO this is an important games for Jones. He has to prove he can be effective against a quality defense in order for the Packers to be willing to give him a lucrative contract. If he doesn't he won't get and doesn't deserve it.

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tincada's picture

November 29, 2020 at 05:57 am

Say what? Flowers was yacking at the start how GB was going to be a running team. Are you telling me that hasn't worked out. ha ha ha. Oh AR save our ass again is the mantra in GB as usual or is it NFC N Champion. Pick one.

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tincada's picture

November 29, 2020 at 06:07 am

Cheeseheads, time to admit GB hasn't had a run game since well I can't remember and is not on track to begin anytime soon. 2018 = 2019 = 2020 = 2021. It's all AR

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 29, 2020 at 04:57 pm

Dorsey Levens and Edgar were a complementary force with Big William Henderson laying the smackdown in the lead. sherman relied on Ahman Green, but was Afraid to use him to gain a yard against Philly. This is a Packertown management issue. A team philosophy issue.

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