Green Bay Packers: Big season ahead for Aaron Jones under LaFleur

Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images /

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones has shown his playmaking abilities and under new Head Coach Matt LaFleur, we should expect a big breakout season in 2019.

Amongst the many issues we saw from this Green Bay Packers team in 2018 was the usage or lack thereof, running back Aaron Jones. Everyone from fans to the media could see this egregious misuse, except for the most important person, former Head Coach Mike McCarthy.

Drafted in the fifth round of the 2017 draft out of UTEP, Jones was perhaps the last gift to Packer nation from former General Manager Ted Thompson, in what turned out to be a number of failed draft picks in his final years.

After serving a suspension early on last season, Jones would return and put on a show. He would rack up 728 yards on the ground, with eight touchdowns, and averaged 5.5 yards per carry, which led the NFL. Through the air, Jones would haul in 26 receptions with a touchdown and averaged 7.9 yards per catch. Jones made it very clear with his play that he can be a key component to this offense.

However, even with his success and playmaking ability, Jones would average just over 11 carries per game. Absolutely unacceptable, especially given the offensive struggles we saw in 2018.

It was early on last season when quarterback Aaron Rodgers chimed in on this very topic:

"“He’s a different type of runner than we’ve had here in a while. You’ve gotta find ways to get him the ball.”"

Yet as we all know, nothing would change.

When we take a look around today’s NFL, we see running backs being used in a variety of creative ways. Take Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints for example, not only is he a force in the running game but he is a huge contributor to the passing game, both out of the backfield and in the slot or out wide.

If we take a look at Jones and Kamara, they have similar measurables from their size to the numbers they posted at the combine, and Jones has shown he can be quite effective in Green Bay’s passing game, just as Kamara is in New Orleans.

With more opportunities, Jones can be another threat for Rodgers in the passing game that will create mismatches for the offense to take advantage of, and Matt LaFleur is just the coach to unlock all of Jones’ potential.

Under LaFleur’s playing calling in 2018, the Tennessee Titans finished seventh in the NFL with 126.4 yards per game on the ground. What makes that stat even more impressive is that Tennessee was 29th in passing yards per game with just 186. Meaning, even though opponents knew Tennessee was likely running the ball, LaFleur was still able to design a successful running scheme.

The Titans were also ninth in the league in rushing attempts per game, and even though the Green Bay Packers may not hit that mark since Aaron Rodgers is at quarterback, we should all be thrilled that Jones will likely receive more than 11 carries per game in 2019.

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As far as the passing game goes, we saw Dion Lewis of the Titans catch 59 passes on 67 targets for 400 yards under LaFleur. Lewis’ 4.2 targets per game ranked as the 18th most amongst NFL running backs. A far cry from the 35 total targets Jones saw last season.

We also saw LaFleur lineup Lewis as a receiver far more frequently than McCarthy did with Jones. According to Pro Football Focus, in 2018 Lewis lined up in the slot or out wide on 48 snaps, compared to just 16 total snaps for Jones.

Jones and Lewis are at different points in their careers and Jones offers more big-play potential at this point, so I expect if Jones can get similar opportunities, we will see more production in LaFleur’s system than Lewis provided. But the key in all of this is in the opportunities, which LaFleur will provide.

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As we’ve seen, Jones is an incredibly dynamic player that can be a game changer for this Green Bay Packers offense in a creative system that will utilize and maximize his abilities. I believe Matt LaFleur is the right coach to do that and I am expecting a big season from Aaron Jones that will make him a household name around the NFL.