Green Bay Packers

Jones, Jacobs, and Where the Packers Stand At Running Back

Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers didn’t just make a splash on the opening day of legal tampering for NFL free agency, they made waves by agreeing to sign running back Josh Jacobs and safety Xavier McKinney. The running back move was a shock. For a brief, fleeting moment, Packers fans dreamed of the thunder-and-lightning duo of incumbent Aaron Jones and Jacobs. Then the Packers released Jones, leaving many confused, saddened, and befuddled.

The running back saga started weeks ago when report Tom Silverstein noted that the Packers and Drew Rosenhaus, Jones’ agent, were working toward an agreement to reduce Jones’ salary cap hit in the final year of his contract. Jones took a pay cut in 2023, and general manager Brian Gutekunst said Jones was the “heartbeat of the team” earlier this year. Therefore, it was natural to expect they’d figure something out and Jones would be on the team in 2024 under an adjusted contract.

Then the Josh Jacobs news broke, and chaos ensued.

Green Bay released Jones, saving $5.2 million in cap space, and went with Jacobs as their lead back instead. They signed Jacobs to a four-year, $48 million deal that mirrors Jones’ original extension with the Packers exactly and has similar guaranteed money.

The primary factors driving the moves are that Jacobs, 26, is younger, and Jones missed six games last season. However, it still stings for Packers fans to lose Jones, who was beloved on and off the field. It also hurt for Green Bay’s front office. In a statement, Brian Gutekunst said releasing Jones was “one of the hardest decisions we’ve had to make in my time with the Packers and not one taken lightly.”

Matt LaFleur echoed that sentiment. “Today is a tough day for the Packers and our community.” Several current Packers players, including Preston Smith, Christian Watson, and Jayden Reed, took to Jones’ Instagram goodbye post to wish him well.

It highlights how hard it will be to replace Jones’ leadership. On the field, though, Jacobs represents a viable replacement for Jones’ production. Below are Jones’ and Jacobs’ stats, side-by-side, over the last five seasons:

At 5’10”, 223 lbs., Jacobs profiles more as a power back. Jones (5’9”, 208 lbs) relies more on speed and agility. Jacobs has been a workhorse with the Las Vegas Raiders; he has consistently gotten most of the carries, whereas other backs have often spelled Jones throughout his career in Green Bay. Like Jones, Jacobs is coming off a somewhat down year where he logged 805 rushing yards for 3.5 yards per carry in 2023 compared to 2022, when he led the NFL with 1,653 rushing yards across 340 carries for a 4.9 yards per carry.

However, Jacobs’ terrible offensive line in 2023 made things difficult for him. Opposing defenses sold out against the run because the Raiders’ quarterback play from Jimmy Garoppolo, Aidan O’Connell, and Brian Hoyer was subpar.

Here’s an example of the subpar blocking and heavy eight-man boxes Jacobs faced:

The Packers are betting on a resurgence, and it could be a smart bet. After all, Jacobs led the league in missed tackles forced over the last three seasons.

With Jones cut and Jacobs on board, where does that leave the Packers? Ultimately, they are in a similar situation to where they started the day. They have Jacobs and running back Emanuel Wilson on the roster and will likely pursue one or two more backs through the draft. Perhaps with Jacobs on board for multiple seasons, they shift from spending a Day 2 draft pick to a later Day 3 pick at running back. Green Bay will likely be looking for that back to be a more pass-catching, change-of-pace type.

Losing Aaron Jones is a crushing move for fans, but I see the logic behind the decisions. Between the Jacobs and McKinney signings, the Packers got better today, and that’s worth celebrating.

Green Bay Packers
What Is Dontayvion Wicks’ Ceiling?
By Felipe Reis - Jul 15, 2024
Green Bay Packers
The Packers Still Hold the Ultimate Trump Card In the NFC North
By Evan Pricco - Jul 14, 2024
Green Bay Packers

The Packers Need To Know What They Have In Sean Rhyan

Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

On locker-room clean-out day in Green Bay, Sean Rhyan reflected on his season following their Divisional Round loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Speaking with the press, […]

Continue Reading