The Green Bay Packers offense is going to be different in 2022. Without Davante Adams, there won’t be an obvious primary receiving option. That role will change weekly. Green Bay’s primary pass-catcher may not even be a receiver. Aaron Jones will be a key part of the game plan, and he can grow into a consistent receiving weapon for the Packers.
Between 2019 and 2021, Jones was the running back with the fourth-most receiving yards (1,220) behind Austin Ekeler, Alvin Kamara, and Christian McCaffrey. He was also tied for second with the most receiving touchdowns at the position with 11, alongside Alvin Kamara and just behind Ekeler, who had 18 scores.
The most prolific season Jones had as a receiver was in 2019. Adams suffered a toe injury against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4 and missed the next four games. The Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, and Kansas City Chiefs, and Jones was the focal point of the passing offense.
That stretch highlighted that Jones won’t work as a great receiver every week. Depending on the opponent, it’s more difficult for a running back to produce, especially against a team with linebackers with lateral speed who cover sideline to sideline. But Jones can take over games, as he did against the Cowboys and the Chiefs. Jones had over 200 yards from scrimmage in Kansas City, and his teammates gave him the game ball as a compliment for his performance.
The Packers were more effective last season when using two running backs on the field simultaneously. It could have been more frequent if Kylin Hill hadn’t gotten hurt, but the roster will have more depth this year. Hill is back, and the Packers signed two talented undrafted free agents, Tyler Goodson and B.J. Baylor, who could develop into role RBs. Also, it’s fair to expect A.J. Dillon to have a bigger role. He finished last season as a de facto starting running back. These factors can help free up Jones and allow the Packers to use him as a receiver.
The Packers have used more resources to replace Marquez Valdes-Scantling than Adams. Christian Watson, Romeo Roubs, and Sammy Watkins can all explore the deep zones of the fields. But there is no receiver on the roster who could replicate Adams’s role. Jones may also be the most similar piece the Packers can use in RPO concepts and receive bubble screens to gain yards after the catch. That’s how Jones scored the game-winning touchdown against the Chiefs three years ago.
The Packers are building the offense with fast receivers who can be deep threats, and Jones is a perfect gadget piece to explore the underneath zones. It won’t be surprising if Jones has a similar role to Deebo Samuel‘s in San Francisco last season.
Moreover, Adam Stenavich is Green Bay’s new offensive coordinator. Besides being the offensive line coach from 2019 to 2021, the Packers also promoted Stenavich to run game coordinator last season, so he knows how to use them and how they can impact the game.
There is also a financial component that makes it essential for Jones to be a receiver and a running back. Jones’ cap hit is $5.9 million this year. But it jumps to $20 million next season and another $16 million in 2024. While a restructure is always on the table, it’s hard to justify paying that much for a player who is only a running back. If Jones’ role grows during 2022, it will be easier to keep him under a wide receiver-type contract because his importance and versatility to the offense will be immense.
Ahman Green, who totaled 2,726 receiving yards between 2000 and 2009, is the historical leader in receiving yards by a Packers running back. Jones is 10th on the list, with 1,448 yards. But he should climb that ranking if he stays in Green Bay until the end of his current contract, and he’s a weapon the Packers can’t give up.