Green Bay Packers

Where Art Thou, Aaron Jones?

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a 2019 campaign in which he led the NFL in total touchdowns (19), loftier expectations were set in place externally by many Green Bay Packers fans for running back Aaron Jones heading into 2020. And how could you blame them? The fifth-round selection out of UTEP three years prior was a 1,000 yard rusher a year ago and chipped in nearly 500 receiving yards as well. Throw in the fact that he is playing in a contract year, it seemed to be a recipe for another massive year for Aaron Jones. So why hasn’t he been utilized as much recently?

The year started with a bang, Jones hitting his stride right from the get-go. Jones had 20 touches and a touchdown Week 1 in a win against the Minnesota Vikings. Week 2 was the Aaron Jones show. Jones ran all over the Detroit Lions for 168 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns and, just for good measure, hauled in four passes for 68 yards and another score. Smooth sailing.

It was more of the same the following weeks (sans the Tampa Bay game where nobody showed up) until Jones ended up with a calf issue that sidelined him for two games. In those two contests, Jamaal Williams became the bell cow and did as expected; great. Jones and Williams have been a great one-two punch since both were drafted in 2017. But it’s hard to make the argument that there should be a legitimate 50/50 time share between the two, and that’s what we’ve seen the last few weeks. And that statement has nothing to do with Williams, he’s fantastic. It has everything to do with Jones and how good he has become and how much he has evolved.

The flow of a game can dictate a lot when it comes to touches, yards, etc. We know this. That’s why sometimes before jumping on why player “X” didn’t do what you expected or wanted, you should look to other avenues as to why that was the case. It’s hard for me to look at the Packers last three contests and justify why Jones has gotten less snaps each week and fewer touches the last three games.

Jones returned from injury against the San Francisco 49ers nearly three Thursday’s ago. The Packers blew out the 49ers. It was not a back and forth affair, it was not a game that hung in the balance. Jones was a game time decision and ended up playing, although it was rumored he would split carries because he apparently wasn’t 100%. Williams and rookie A.J. Dillon were out due to COVID-19, leaving the Packers razor thin at running back. Jones finished the game with 20 touches. Most (including myself) were satisfied with the workload. That’s why these last two weeks make little to no sense.

Games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Indianapolis Colts both proved to be nail biters. Neither game was Green Bay playing from behind in which normally you would have to abandon the run more. I waffle constantly because the Packers have Aaron bleeping Rodgers, and he was torching that Colts pass defense in the first half. I get it. But I can’t justify Jones going from 15 runs against the 49ers, to 13 against the Jaguars, to 10 last week against the Colts. I just can’t. You have to find a way to get your best players involved. At a bare minimum, find a way for them to be on the damn field. Williams was on the field for 41 snaps against the Jaguars, the exact same number as Jones. Against the Colts, Williams saw 41 snaps, Jones 30, total. Period. There doesn’t seem to be an injury holding Jones back either. So to not only see him get out snapped by his backup, but to be on the field for 30 of a possible 60 snaps makes me cringe. I can not say it enough, so I will say it again, Williams is excellent. This isn’t about him, it’s about Jones.

On a crucial 4th and 1 with three minutes left, Green Bay down 31-28 at the Colts 36-yard line, Jones stood watching on the sideline. How? How is that explainable? If you want Williams out there that badly for that play, that scenario, throw both running backs on the field, I don’t care. To have Jones on the sidelines watching, though, in that moment, on that play, seems criminal. I’m not saying the Packers with certainty convert that fourth down if Jones is on the field, but it is worth noting that they did not convert.

This isn’t about that one play, though, against the Colts. That’s just a reference point to cast your eyes upon and get your brain spinning. Zoom out the microscope and we can see this has been a trend for Jones the last few weeks. Less snaps on the field every week, less total touches. For the guy who led the NFL in total touchdowns a year ago and appears to be the exact same player if not perhaps even a little more polished. It’s time to not only get No. 33 on the field more, it’s time to start feeding No. 33 again.

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Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

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