By all accounts, Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones is the perfect complimentary player to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Aaron, the strong armed, accurate gun slinger… meet Aaron, the lightning quick, touchdown churning runner.
One season removed from his tantalizing rookie season, Aaron Jones produced great numbers this past year when he was on the field. His YPC was a robust 5.5. He totaled 9 touchdowns. He had a game in which he put up 170+ yards and 2 touchdowns on a mere 18 touches (carries and receptions). The kid out of Toledo El Paso can certainly play, make no mistake about it. But, looking a little closer, I ask the controversial question: did Aaron Jones have a disappointing season?
Blasphemy. Outrageous. WTF. LOL. Beer me.
Words that are probably being used right now all over the great cheese state of Wisconsin, to me even posing such a question. Hear me out though. Let’s take a running back stroll through the numbers, and season, that Aaron Jones just had. Come, have a seat, pour yourself a strong egg nog, and let’s look at things with a cup half full view.
Argument number one: Availability. Aaron Jones missed the first two weeks of the season due to suspension, stemming from a marijuana related arrest during his rookie season. So, already, he’s unavailable for two games. Two games may not seem like a lot at first glance, but that’s already ⅛ of the NFL season. The Packers first two games this year were divisional games (Bears and Vikings). Save for a miraculous, but almost typical, Aaron Rodgers comeback, and a late game meltdown against the Vikings that inexplicably ended in a tie, the Packers very well could have started 0-2. Not his fault, but if one is to be the superstar running back an Aaron Rodger’s lead team sorely needs, not being suspended helps.
Now, take those first two games and double it. Aaron Jones was just recently placed on Injured Reserve on Tuesday, due to an MCL sprain. Suddenly, missing “just two games” turns into missing a quarter of the season. One could point to the surface level of the time missed and say that the Packers went 1-0-1 during the suspension and that the last two games are pretty meaningless, as the team is out of playoff contention, but… having your best players on the field is a good thing. Over time, bad things happen when they’re not on the field.
This isn’t just a random thing, it’s becoming an actual thing, as Aaron Jones also missed 4 games in his rookie season due to injuries.
Argument number two: Playing Time. Either Mike McCarthy, the former Green Bay Packers coach, had Jones forever in the doghouse, or there’s more than meets the eye on playing time. In short spurts, Aaron Jones was pretty amazing. Going back to the 5.5 YPC and 9 total touchdowns in 12 games, one has no choice but to say that’s impressive. Looking deeper into it, you realize that he only played about half the snaps in a game or carried the ball a mere 10-15 times. Again, pretty darn impressive, but, with a cup half full view, why wasn’t he playing more?
Watching the Packers this season was certainly maddening on many accounts, but in regard to Aaron Jones’ playing time, there has to be more to it than just plain stupidity, to all you McCarthy haters. Maybe McCarthy didn’t feel Jones’ body could take the pounding of 20-25 touches a game. Maybe it was the widespread notion and belief that Aaron Jones cannot pass block as well as fellow running back, Jamaal Williams, can. When you have arguably the most talented quarterback in the NFL, keeping him upright should be priority number one, after all.
We can look at the numbers and say Aaron Jones needs to play more, but is it the coaches fault that he doesn’t? I would think that NFL coaches realize having your best players on the field maximizes their team’s chances of winning. Maybe Aaron was just relying on talent, and couldn’t learn the entire playbook. Maybe Aaron just can’t pass block. Maybe he rubbed coaches the wrong way. Maybe he had poor practice habits. Maybe they were protecting him, by limiting him. I don’t know the actual reasons. Yes, this is all just posturing, but he wasn’t on the field when the Packers needed him most. All of the blame can’t go to the coaches.
Argument number three: Effectiveness. This may seem silly, as a running back carrying the ball to the tune of 5.5 YPC is certainly effective, right? Well, how many games did the Packers win with Aaron Jones running the ball this year? Four. The answer is four. How many points per game did the Packers put up with Aaron Jones at running back? 279. Divide that by the 12 games he played, and the answer is a little over 23 PPG. Nothing to write home about. In today’s NFL, that’s about average. Not too great, but not too bad. How many drives did he keep alive? How much clock did he kill when the Packers needed to? Not much.
For all the Aaron Jones loving that is going around these days, he didn’t lead to too many wins or too many points. Was he just a flashy player who happened to break out at random, or is he a superstar in waiting? Eddie Lacy was a better running back with the Green Bay Packers his first two seasons (2013-14) and he last played in 2017. He’s not even in the league anymore.
Running backs have a very short life span in the NFL. They have to seize their opportunity when they can. They have to pop. They have to stick. They have to show they belong, on a consistent basis or they’ll be left by the wayside. You can’t tell me that a team who believes in drafting the BPA (best player available) won’t take another RB in this year’s draft if he’s a possible stud, and is there in the fourth or fifth or sixth round. I’d be shocked if the Packers don’t pick another running back late in the draft this year.
The Green Bay Packers M.O. is to draft the best player available, regardless of position, and use them throughout their rookie contracts and that’s it. Only a select few receive the big money contract extensions. Davante Adams (drafted to be the 4th or 5th WR) and David Bakhtiari (drafted as a backup LT) are a couple that come to mind. Running backs? Never. Not in my lifetime have the Packers given a huge deal to a running back, much less keep a guy longer than 4-5 years. We’re coming on Year 3 for Aaron Jones.
In today’s NFL, running backs as a whole just don’t get paid, so you need to be as effective as possible during your rookie contract. Ask yourself, as a whole, in two years now, has Aaron Jones been effective? Eddie Lacy had two straight 1,100 yard rushing seasons with an average of 12 touchdowns per. Aaron Jones? His TOTAL in two years comes in at 1,176 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. An average year for Lacy’s first two years is what Jones’ total production has been. Let that sink in.
I’m not writing this to be negative. I’m not writing this to tear the guy down (although it seems like it). I love Aaron Jones. I think he’s awesome. But, there are reasons he can’t stay on the field. There are reasons he plays so sparingly. Next season will be Year 3 already. No more excuses. The Green Bay Packers need Aaron Jones to be available, and he needs them to let him shine.
So, I ask… would the real Aaron Jones please stand up?