Aaron Jones off Packers injury report but still not 100 percent

Oct 22, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) carries the ball in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 22, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) carries the ball in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The good news is that running back Aaron Jones was not listed on the Green Bay Packers final injury report with a designation. However, that doesn’t mean he will be a full go during Sunday’s game with Minnesota, either.

"“He’s been doing a little bit more, I’d say,” said Matt LaFleur. “But we are still going to be smart with him. I don’t think he’s 100 percent by any stretch.”"

Jones has been dealing with a lingering hamstring injury since the Packers’ season opener in Chicago. He would miss the following two games, return against Detroit on a snap count, and then miss the Las Vegas game the next week after tweaking his hamstring in that Saturday’s practice.

Jones was available against the Broncos but still not out there in a full capacity. He played 23 offensive snaps, totaling eight carries for 35 yards, along with three catches on four targets for another 22 yards. AJ Dillon would play 36 snaps, and Emanuel Wilson would play five.

"“This is the best I’ve felt (since the injury in Chicago),” said Jones on Friday. “If I don’t get to 100 (percent) Sunday, I’ll probably be there next Sunday. It’s like someone applied some smiles on my face because I feel like I’m getting there, getting over that.”"

The Packers’ offense has struggled to get anything going early on in games. There are a myriad of reasons as to why, but not having Jones, the offense’s top playmaker, available consistently is a fairly big contributor.

This week, Green Bay faces a very aggressive Vikings’ defense that relies heavily on the blitz and does so with a variety of players. According to Pro Football Reference, Minnesota is blitzing on 56 percent of their defensive snaps. The next closest team is New England at 42 percent. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores also does a really good job of disguising coverages with his personnel, something that can cause issues for a young offense.

Given the Vikings’ style of play on defense, along with the Packers’ offensive line woes, relying on the quick passing game is going to be an important factor in this game as a way to get the ball out of Jordan Love’s hands quickly and to a pass catcher in space, where they hopefully have yards after the catch potential. Utilizing Jones in this capacity as often as possible would, of course, be ideal.

If we assume that based on Jones’ and LaFleur’s comments, he is again going to be on a pitch count, that means we are going to continue to see more of Dillon, who has been playing his best football over the last two weeks. During that span, we have seen a much more decisive and physical version of Dillon, as he’s totaled 137 rushing yards at 4.0 yards per attempt–a far cry from the 2.7 he was averaging earlier in the season.

"“He’s done a nice job,” said LaFleur this past Monday. “He’s lowering his pad level and finishing runs, and that’s what we expect out of him. He’s a big back, and he’s getting downhill. We are getting him going better the last couple of weeks, and we need him to continue to do that, and hopefully, it gets better from here on out.”"

With so many defenders often flying around close to the line of scrimmage, the Vikings have been quite good against the run this season, allowing only 3.6 yards per rush–the sixth-lowest rate in the NFL this season. As we’ve seen throughout the year, if Green Bay is unable to get the run game going and can’t find success on early downs, the drive almost inevitably ends in a punt as they find themselves in predictable passing situations.

In these instances, the defense can do the dictating and has the advantage. They are able to get into favorable matchups and have the opportunity to be the aggressor, which is the calling card of this Minnesota defense, and plays right into what they want to do.

"“Just know we have to come out fast,” added Jones, “the same way we’ve been playing in the second halves, with our backs against the wall. We just have to come out with that mindset and attack. Person lined up across from you, attack them. Come out with urgency when you break the huddle, tempo to the ball, and put stress on them.”"