Week four against the Chicago Bears, the uncommonly numbered running back, Ty Montgomery, broke a few ribs which prompted the training staff to declare number 88 as inactive for the remainder of the game. A sense of confusion lingered among Packer fans. Montgomery had solidified himself as the new feature back as he transitioned smoothly from the wide receiver position. In order to support him, the Packers selected three running backs in the later rounds of the draft.
The thought ingrained in most minds slotted rookie running back Jamaal Williams, leading rusher from BYU, as the next man up. Explosive Utah State Aggie, Devonte Mays, showed flashes of brilliance as he averaged six yards per carry throughout his career which intrigued the Packers and earned a passing thought as well. Then comes Aaron Jones. Even after a solid preseason, the name of the five foot ten, 210-pound bowling ball from the University of Texas at El Paso escaped minds of most Packer fans, yet he entered the game after number 88 went down.
As quickly as his footwork that propels him into the open field, Jones inserted himself into the NFL community with a 49-yard performance where he powered through for a rushing score. Fantasy owners scrambled for the new feature back, commentators discussed his strengths and shortcomings. Williams continued to pop up as a major contender for the job while people pegged Jones’ performance as an aberration.
Jones set out to prove the naysayers wrong by ripping off a 125 yard game against the Dallas Cowboys where he found paydirt for the second time on the season. The Packers won the game and the league definitely took notice of Mr. Jones. For the first time in years, the Packers’ running game was a problem, not for themselves, but for the foes remaining on Green Bay’s schedule. The vicious Minnesota Vikings defense stymied Jones as he only rushed for 41 yards, but Aaron Rodgers provided the biggest story of the day as an Anthony Barr hit put Rodgers on the shelf for the foreseeable future.
Green Bay slipped into a panic. The organization needed a hero and needed one quick. The new Aaron in town answered the call to the tune of a touchdown and 131 yards on the ground against a stout New Orleans Saints defense. The Packers lost the game, but the panic seemed to quell, at least for a moment. The injury bug delivered another devastating blow to the Packers’ season. Aaron Jones suffered an MCL sprain said to sideline him for three to six weeks. The season appeared to be in a downward spiral. Starter after starter falling to injury, disgruntled members of the locker room making headlines in the media, and a fan base unaccustomed to losing brewed a storm that never quite settled down by the end of the season.
To make matters worse, Jones faced charges for marijuana possession after a traffic stop in mid-November while injured. Jones took full responsibility and apologized for his actions. He vowed to return to the field with healthy and with a clear head. The arrest and injury springboarded and cemented Jamaal Williams into the starting role for the Packers and he flourished with the new job title. Though Williams supplanted Jones in his absence, Jones’ magic stayed alive for one more appearance. In a week 13 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with playoff hopes still alive, the Packers forced the contest into overtime.
A stop on defense placed the ball in the hands of the Green Bay offense. On one fateful play from the Buccaneers’ 20-yard line, the Packers shifted from riding the hot hand of Jamaal Williams and subbed in Aaron Jones though he had not seen a snap since his performance against the Saints. Jones lined up behind Ripkowski in an I-Formation. Brett Hundley barked out the cadence, Corey Linsley snapped the ball, and Jones followed a pulling Lane Taylor on a trap play to the right side. The hole clogged up, forcing Jones to show off his best Barry Sanders impersonation by reversing field, evading defensive end Will Clarke, hitting the edge on the left side of the line, and emphatically diving into the end zone for the game-winning score.
Jones was limited to only 10 carries for the remainder of the season as Williams continued his success as a workhorse back. Impressively, though, Jones averaged 5.5 yards per carry on 81 totes of the rock in the 2017 campaign. He totaled 4 rushing touchdowns along with 448 rushing yards. All in all, Jones created a fortuitous problem for the Green Bay Packers. The organization has faith in Ty Montgomery’s ability to rebound from injury, belief in the sustainability of Jamaal Williams, and hope for a resurgence of Aaron Jones.