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Packers' RBs Should Play Significant Role in Reimagined Offense

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Packers' RBs Should Play Significant Role in Reimagined Offense

The Green Bay Packers added a young trio of running backs to their backfield in last year's draft, ensuring that for the foreseeable future, they'll have to roll with a complementary mixture of running styles.

Between Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays, each brings their own unique brand of abilities to the table.

Williams, a tough, head-down type of runner that will fight for extra yardage everytime he touches the ball. Jones, a shifty, elusive tailback with the ability to locate running lanes and help create blocking for himself. And Mays, whose first two carries in the NFL were fumbles, he doesn't exactly have much of a sample size to base any conclusions on.

If he can be anything like his two draft partners, then the Packers certainly have little to fear with the current state of their backfield. Even without his development, Williams and Jones seem to provide the perfect balance of "thunder and lightning" that the Packers could benefit from.

As they enter their second season, they're going to be in the middle of a complete overhaul of the Packers' offense -- a foreign concept in Green Bay since Mike McCarthy became the head coach in 2006.

"This offseason resembles a year-one offseason," McCarthy said at the NFL's annual meetings in Orlando last week. "Obviously, the defense is going through that because they're building a brand-new playbook, new coaching staff, new philosophy. There is some carryover from our old defense.

But offensively, when you have the same system for 12 years, you're playing late into the playoffs, you usually turn the page and evaluate and just try to evolve off what you did last year. We've taken a totally different approach. We've gone back to page one in the playbook."

The Packers would be wise to include the Williams-and-Jones tandem has an integral part of that new-look playbook, specifically in the passing game.

According to Warren Sharp of, the Packers have targeted their running backs on just 12 percent of offensive snaps, ranking dead-last in the league at No. 32. An underlying factor in those numbers is the lack of stability the Packers had in their backfield in 2016.

Between the carousel of Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Don Jackson, Knile Davis, Christine Michael and eventually Ty Montgomery making the transition from receiver to running back, the Packers never had a sense of consistency throughout the season. With that lack of consistency, comes the lack of targets going their way.

In 2017, however, the Packers somewhat regained their niche with getting the running backs involved through the air, even with Brett Hundley's struggles at quarterback.

Williams was targeted 34 times, accounting for an average passer rating of 103. He also had a 53 percent success rate, which ranked as the highest of all the Packers' running backs.

According to Sharp's data, of 45 running backs with 25-or-more early-down targets, Williams' success rate ranked fifth and passer rating eighth. Between Jones and Williams, it may be relatively obvious who the better pure runner is given Jones' 5.5 yards per carry last season, but Williams' efficiency in the passing game is hard to ignore.

Williams and receiver Davante Adams were the only players on the team last season with a passer rating when targeted over 100 and a success rate over 51 percent.

Pro Football Focus also marked Williams down for a 149.6 passer rating when targeted on screens last season, which is natural when catching nine of 10 targets for 119 yards and a touchdown like he did.

Jones, meanwhile, was on the complete opposite end of the spectrum in terms of receiving. Jones had a 56 passer rating when targeted last season and an efficiency rating of 11 percent. He also averaged 1.2 yards per attempt on 18 targets, less than double that of Williams' share.

Whether that changes in 2018 with a fresh offensive design and with quarterback Aaron Rodgers once again in the mix is wishful thinking, but Jones was also edged out in the pass-blocking department by Williams as well. This is where the beauty of their double-punch style meshes perfectly.

Each has their strengths and weaknesses, but fitting both into the schematic format seems like a no-brainer with nothing to lose. Creating an emphasis on running backs is a blueprint that a team like the New England Patriots have perfected in recent years.

With their starting trio of James White, Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead, all three running backs had a passer rating over 100 -- 100, 111 and 126, respectively -- when targeted last season. Each player also recorded an efficiency rating at or above 47% with Lewis and Burkhead surpassing 55.

The most telling of these numbers are their targets. White received 90, Lewis 53 and Burkhead 38 -- all serving their own designed purpose in the Patriots' seemingly flawless offensive plans.

Replicating the similarity would be wise for a team with players of equal or better caliber than those who make up the Patriots' backfield.

The "scrub-brush approach" to the Packers' re-designed offense with a newfound sense of value in the running back position would only make things easier for Rodgers, who turns 35 in December.


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 (47) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

RCPackerFan's picture

If I'm McCarthy and Philbin, and I am truly re-imaging the offense, I would put a lot more focus on the RBs. More so in the passing game. Finding ways to get them the ball that isn't obvious.

They have 3 versatile RB's (Jones, Williams, Montgomery) who can be true threats in all areas of the offense. They all can be used in the running game and passing game. Its time to take advantage of them.

One theme that the 2 super bowl teams offenses had was they used their RB's in a lot of different ways. I would love to see the Packers doing more of that.

Jones I think could be special if he stays healthy. His vision, burst and cutting ability are as good as anyone. I'd love to see him get more opportunities in the passing game. Getting him the ball in space could be dynamite for the offense.

Williams started slow but really came on late in the year. He could be poised for a really big year 2. His ability as a receiver really surprised me.

Montgomery is the ultimate chess piece weapon. He is the swiss army knife type of RB. He can do it all. If he can be used in a rotation I think he would be great. Where he isn't taking a pounding.

Pairing Montgomery with Jones together I think could be a scary look on offense. Keeping defenses on its toes would give Rodgers an even bigger edge.

Rodgers is getting older, and one of the QB's best friends can be the run game. Or the use of the RB's in the passing game. Now is a great time to take some pressure off of Rodgers and allowing him to rely more on the RB's.

flackcatcher's picture

I be happy if the Packers return to their classic west coast offense. That would dictate at least 20 touches by the running backs. As good as Rodgers is, MM fixation on running every play though QB1 stunted the offenses growth. Made this team predictable. Glad to see the head coach admit his error and change their offense system.

Johnblood27's picture

There's only 11 offensive players on the field at a time.

Of those 11 only 6 can be eligible receivers (excluding tackle eligible plays)

One of those 6 is the QB, and in the pro game, he isn't a target.

That leaves working 5 guys into productive roles on any given play.

Get to work McLardy!!!

Razer's picture

There is no doubt in my mind that we have enough talent on offense to outrun most teams. The additions of decent RBs and a stud TE complete the picture. Aside from the right side of the O-line, the limitation on this offense will rest with the coaches and our ability to get creative. McCarthy has gotten staler and staler these last years. Hopefully, Philbin breaths some freshness into what could be our most diverse offense since 2014.

Nick Perry's picture

Just watched a game between the Packers and Bucs from 2011 on you-tube yesterday. I saw almost the exact same offense in that game as I saw in 2016 and 2017. The DIFFERENCE was the number of receivers Rodgers had at his disposal.

Has MM offense gotten stale? Sure it has but I can GUARANTEE you if the Packers were able to line up a WR Corps like they had in 2011 they'd STILL be successful, no matter if the defense knew what was coming.

The Packers had committed three 2nd round picks to WR for that offense (Jennings, Cobb, Nelson) and two 3rd round picks (Finley, & J Jones) plus they still had DD making plays.

NOW they still have Cobb, one 2nd round pick (Adams) two 5th round picks (Davis and Yancy) (Davis..What an IDIOT!!) and a couple of UDFA (Allison, Clark) and a few guys I've never heard of. I guess we could call Montgomery a WR still and he could play more there in a pinch, but the WR position, the position that has allowed Rodgers to be an All World QB is dried up and HURTING for talent.

Graham and so will the RB's the Packers have will help but my God...WHAT the hell happened? The Packers are about to pay Rodgers $30 plus million a year and they don't have the horses to make it all go. Not even close. No matter what they'll have to depend on Rodgers to keep putting the ball in a place his over-matched WR Corps only have a chance getting the ball.

Now have at the downvoting but THATS the truth we have to deal with.
And you guys keep down-voting me every time I slam Thompson? What a F***** mess.

Archie's picture

No WRs, no TEs, no OL, no LB, no DBs. What the hell was TT doing these last years? Not much good apparently. As Packers' front office drain took place, TT got more & more exposed. As the talent on this team got worse & worse, DC and MM got exposed too. My only question is how the hell did MM keep his job and everybody else got the boot?! Needed a total flush.

Spock's picture

And... in unrelated news: Trevor Davis who has a knack for bad decisions on kickoffs also has a knack for that in real life! He was arrested Sunday for making a bomb joke at LAX airport.

dobber's picture

Geez, even I'M smart enough not to joke about bombs in an airport...and that's saying something!

Spock's picture

dobber, Yeah, I at least know enough that if my friend, "Jack", is there I would say, "Hello, Jack" not "Hi,..."

flackcatcher's picture

Had a idiot joking about being 'the bomb' as we passed though TSA checkout on the way to deploy to Iraq. Full combat gear including sidearm and M4a1. TSA was not amused. They pulled him out and delayed our flight by an hour. There are some things you do not do in a airport. Even today. And yes, I took his stripes for being a total fool. (He got them back after his tour.)

4thand1's picture

He was listed as 6'2" in the arrest report. Was he hiding explosives in his platform shoes? What a dumbass.

The TKstinator's picture

So, maybe his “Bomb” joke....didn’t go over so well?

snowdog's picture

Maybe saying " Hey , Arron , I'm open throw me the bomb ! "

Sorry , couldn't let that one go

snowdog's picture

Edit : Should have just dropped the subject .

Finwiz's picture

You should have added, 'I'm here thru the weekend".

Finwiz's picture

This guy isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer is he?
No wonder he can't succeed in the NFL, he isn't even smart enough to know how to act when getting on an airplane.

4thand1's picture

His joke "bombed"

The TKstinator's picture

Or blew up in his face.

Finwiz's picture

So 3 idiots think this qualifies him to play in the NFL and be a role model to kids apparently.

This site truly IS a reflection of the public in general, where 85% of the people are some degree of idiot.

They should cut the guy. He's too stupid to play in the NFL and be a role model to kids, let alone know the route tree's for the various receiver positions.

stockholder's picture

The guy couldn't catch one. Why would he make one. This guy should never have been drafted. Look for 3 wrs to be drafted. Time to move on.

Finwiz's picture

I gave you 1.5 likes because it deserves more than the typical 1.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

They literally have signs in the security lines saying not to joke about this stuff. I guess they need to be bigger.

Royalty Free GM's picture

Yes, Ridley is BPA by far at #14. We are so lucky if we can get this multitalented player without trading up.

stockholder's picture

RFG - It's between Landry and J.Jackson. @14. Ridley is to small and will be on the IR as soon as he gets hit. The best draft is Defense. From what I've seen on tape. My money is on Landry, Carter, Gallop. I understand you want Ridley. I want Vea. Bet Vea goes before Ridley?

Royalty Free GM's picture

Why is it essential that Packers draft Calvin Ridley?

I’m not saying that Adams isn’t good, but we need to be THE BEST when we have a guy like Aaron Rodgers.

Ridley would give the Packers a dimension that ARod has never had in his career, never. A speedy deep threat that can actually catch the ball and run with it.
And when secondary starts backpedaling too much, there comes RBs&TEs picking up yards more easily.

Combine Ridley(separation) with Adams(high balls) and opponent teams will need two very good corners to slow down our air attack... and those teams are rare as we know.

Draft THE BEST WR (Ridley) and become the best! He is even worth trading up little. #14 would be a steal. Just don’t let this opportunity to slip away. Don’t settle to 2nd or 3th best, that’s what Vikings and Lions are there for ;)

This is the Packers LAST chance to draft something really good for ARod to work with. Let’s not waste this rare chance to unleash ARod’s full potential. Let’s ATTACK!

stockholder's picture

You made good, if not excellent points for a speedy WR. Trouble is; that guy can be drafted later. Most don't like the routes he ran. His 4.4 speed has been beaten by Moore ,Chaulk,Cain. Ridley Frame is 6' 189# Arm 31 1/2. His shuttle 4.41, Vertical Jump 31, broad 9. 2 were terrible. Something that the packers stayed away from.

Royalty Free GM's picture

You absolutely cannot get him later, he will be gone. He might easily go before #14. This is the smoke-screen time... Teams are always looking for WR1.
Don’t just look numbers (A Brown). You have to have both; playing speed and excellent hands; he has both. Look more about his tape and you will find he is the guy who can get separation and what’s more important; catch the ball consistently.
#14 is just right place to get him. We will never get Julio Jones type hype player at #14 and we will never get draft’s WR1 kind of player at #30.
If we don’t get him, we will never be able to see what ARod could have done with really good WR. And that would be pity... What if...
No ifs. Get him!

Royalty Free GM's picture

SH- It will be interesting draft for sure. I would assume that first four picks will be? (3QBs and 1RB, maybe not in that order) and after that... who knows.
Anybody’s guess is as good as any “expert’s” guess.

And then there are possibility of trades that can change everything xO
Personally this is one of the most exciting drafts for many years.

bodei1newbie1's picture

Packers' RBs Should Play Significant Role in Reimagined Offense well first off (1)is MCcarthy going to give mays another chance (2) will he let rip run the ball a little (3) will rodgers audible out of a running play ? just something to think about.

4thand1's picture

Will the Packers run the ball more than 20 times in a game?

stockholder's picture

They have too. Nelson's Gone.

Tundraboy's picture

No they don't. MM is still the coach. We could have Taylor and Hornung and you would still have to twist his arm.

John Kirk's picture

How many times do you want to run it when you have the best QB in the game?

If we're hypothetically going to focus on RBs in the passing game, I'm a huge proponent of Sony Michel. Alvin Kamara type integration with him would be fun to watch. I don't know if he's as smart as Kamara but that would be fun to watch. Imagining the RB as a huge threat with Rodgers able to deal to Graham and Adams and whomever else would be something to see.

DD's picture

Exactly. Change big dumb MM in his 12th year with the Pack? Lmao. Negatory, not happening!

DD's picture

Answer Bodei: MM, no!!!

Handsback's picture

I will put this out about the Packer's Rbs. Don't sleep on Joel Bouagnon this season. He's a big back 6-2, 230lbs and has some speed. The Bears didn't need him, but I can imagine the Pack wanting a good big back that will get those 1 to 2 yard gains.

Since '61's picture

The run game should have an increased role this season but if they are going to be effective they need to solidify the right side of the OL first. I would be OK if the Packers resign Jahri Evans to either start or as injury insurance and then draft an RT as well.

The running game only goes as far as the OL takes them.
Thanks, Since '61

DD's picture

Since 61: Wrong. OL? Dead wrong. Only as far ad MM buys in, which is highly unlikely. No change MM. His ass should have been gone 5 years ago. Big mistake staying with him and keeping TT in the shadows. You'll be screaming for his head after this season. Mark it.

cpitt's picture

If theres one thing MM isnt capable of, its evolving. Guy is so stubborn. He also doesnt put his most explosive players in a position to succeed unless hes forced to by injury. See janis, jones, desmond bishop, etc.

DD's picture

Isn't that the truth. I have a hard time believing true fans are eating up this BS of change, play book revised. Starting his 12th year fools. No change MM! Ride Rodgers, running game dead last as it was last year. SAD!!

Archie's picture

MM = Marty Schottenheimer, his mentor. 500 or better in reg season and couldn't win in postseason. Unimaginative. Must be catchy.

DD's picture

Running backs are very good and solid now. Ran 12% and ranked 32nd in the league! That's last correct. Philbin may help but the Packers have one MAJOR roadblock: No run, no scheme, predictable, boring MM is starting his 12th season!! Wake up Packet nation. 12 years to figure that out? Think it will change? Do you know anyone for 12 years that all of the sudden they wake up and you say boy have they changed? I don't. Lmao.

dobber's picture

I really don't care what your opinion of MM is, but the Packers ran on about 39% of their play calls last year (2017). That was 7th least.

Can you provide context for "12%, and ranked 32nd in the league"?

Oppy's picture

I don't think you'll get a response, but I'll go ahead an add actual numbers to help support the fact that the Packers actually have the ability to move the ball on the ground.

2017 Regular season, Packers were #27 in the league in rush attempts
However, they were #17 in the league in total rush yardage

Which all adds up to the Packers finsihing tied for #3 in average yards per rushing attempt.

This team should be able to run the ball. All it needs to do is execute running plays at the LOS.

Archie's picture

Read the article man .......

According to Warren Sharp of, the Packers have targeted their running backs on just 12 percent of offensive snaps, ranking dead-last in the league at No. 32.

PatrickGB's picture

One reason to run the ball is to hold the time of possession in your favor. Esp. when your defense is subpar. It wears down a defense and helps set up the pass.

dobber's picture

But with ARod at QB, the Packers were actually relatively high in the TOP rankings in 2016 and until he got crushed in 2017. They had ball-control passing figured out.

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