Green Bay Packers

The Tremendous Potential Of Green Bay’s Running Game

Photo Credit: Mark Hoffman via USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers’ offense was one of the league’s biggest surprises late last season — a positive one, if you’re into that sort of thing.

With Jordan Love entering Year 2 as a starter and with a big payday on the way, all eyes will be on Green Bay’s offense to take another step forward and push for a championship.

While Love’s confidence and chemistry with the improving young receivers was a big part of the late-season growth, another factor was getting some juice from the running game. The Packers missed Aaron Jones for most of the year. When he was finally back in full form, he was a difference-maker. Jones’ return allowed for a more balanced offense.

Unfortunately, Jones is now with the Minnesota Vikings in one of the most shocking off-season moves. While his absence as a player and person won’t easily be replaced, the overall state of the running back group might be better than it was at this point last year. If the group of new additions Josh Jacobs and MarShawn Lloyd are as advertised, coupled with a returning AJ Dillon and Emanuel Wilson, Green Bay’s rushing attack could be an early strength and contribute to a well-balanced offense.

Between the offensive line’s early struggles and Jones’ injury issues, the Packers were not a great rushing team in 2023. The team’s 1,905 rushing yards were middle of the pack for the league. It took until Week 15 for the team to have a 100-plus-yard rusher, with Jones putting up 127 yards against the Carolina Panthers. Jones would then have over 100 rushing yards in every one of Green Bay’s remaining games, including two playoff games.

Jones led the Packers in rushing yards, with 656; as mentioned, most of these yards came toward the end of the season. While Jones played in 11 games, he was limited in many of them. In relief, Dillon handled RB1 duties, totaling 613 rushing yards and two rushing TDs.

Love actually led the team in rushing TDs, with four. He was also third on the team in rushing yards, with 247.

Patrick Taylor (141 yards), a frequent practice squad call-up who finished the season elsewhere, and rookie receiver Jayden Reed (119 yards) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Losing Jones won’t be easy, but otherwise, there are reasons to believe that the running game will get off to a better start in 2024.

Jacobs’ addition is a massive boon for the Packers. While his 2023 season wasn’t ideal (mainly in part due to injuries, a shaky offensive line, and instability with coaching and quarterbacks), he’s still only a year removed from leading the NFL in rushing yards.

Jacobs didn’t participate early in OTAs, but he looks fully healthy and integrated into the offense for mandatory minicamp. On Tuesday, Jacobs had a 60-yard TD in 11-on-11s where he broke away. Not even Eric Stokes, one of the fastest players on the defense, could catch him.

As always, we’ll see how things look when the pads come on. But if Jacobs is close to his 2022 self, he’ll be a major factor in the offense.

LockedOn Packers’ Peter Bukowski noted that the unsustainable amount of explosive runs was a case against Jacobs’ 2022 season. However, he also pointed out that this will be the best offensive line he’s played behind. The offensive line as a whole also should be a strength for the running game.

Green Bay’s offensive line started slowly the past two seasons, and it’s been better at pass protection than run blocking. However, while the Packers are still figuring out their ideal O-line configuration, they have a much better handle on each member’s strengths and weaknesses. However it works out, it should be the best line Jacobs has played with in his career.

A strong passing game also makes the new Packers RB1’s life easier. Love will be the best quarterback Jacobs has played with. Surprisingly, Jacobs has yet to record a receiving touchdown in his career, which should definitely change this year.

Jacobs should at least be comparable to Jones in his fully healthy, productive seasons. But Jacobs alone isn’t the only reason the rushing attack should be strong.

While Dillon returned to Green Bay on a one-year deal and proved capable when the Packers called upon him, third-round rookie MarShawn Lloyd might be the real difference-maker and could slide into an RB2 role early in his career.

Running back is one of the easiest positions to transition from the college level to the pros, and we see young running backs break out every year. Lloyd is already consistently impressing media members and his teammates through the off-season program.

Lloyd brings the small and shifty element to the running back room. His speed and change of direction ability add a fun element to the offense. Many analysts believed Green Bay got the best running back in this draft class, and he could complement Jacobs with his unique skillset as RB2 right off the bat.

Green Bay also has Dillon, a proven teammate who knows the offense, and Wilson, a promising former UDFA. Wilson didn’t see much of the spotlight last season, even occasionally overshadowed by practice squad members, but he will have a shot to show how he’s developed.

The Packers are deeper at running back than last season, added significant speed, and have a solid offensive line and passing game to work with. In addition, Matt LaFleur has let OC Adam Stenavich, a run-game specialist, call plays through OTAs and minicamp. That’s a good recipe for getting the run game going early. Jacobs and Co. should offer a reliable rushing attack to create a balanced offense and make life easier for Jordan Love.

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