“It was a dark and stormy night....”
Or so has the story gone for the Green Bay Packers the past two weeks. They lost star quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone before losing to the Minnesota Vikings two weeks ago. To add insult to injury, the following week the Packers lost a home game to the New Orleans Saints after a disastrous second half. The Packers stand at 4-3 at their bye week, one game behind Vikings for first place in the NFC North.
It’s not all bad news for Green Bay, however. At a time in which most fans are still in the grieving process over Rodgers’ injury, a ray of light has emerged on offense.
That spark of hope is rookie running back Aaron Jones.
Jones was key in Green Bay’s comeback against the Dallas Cowboys a few weeks ago (Rodgers was still under center at that point) and he carried the offense against the Saints while quarterback Brett Hundley still had training wheels on him.
In fact, despite the losing effort, Jones was voted the FedEx NFL Ground Player of Week 7. Jones had 17 carries for 131 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. He broke onto the scene with his 19 carry, 125 yard game against the Cowboys. He also currently ranks third in the NFL in yards per rushing attempt.
Jones’ emergence has come at the perfect time for the Packers. With Rodgers out indefinitely, Hundley is going to need all the help he can get. Jones could very well provide the spark the offense needs until Rodgers returns (if he returns this season at all, that is).
Ty Montgomery has struggled since being anointed the starting running back by head coach Mike McCarthy prior to training camp. He lacks the decisiveness that a true featured back should possess and he seems to prefer running through defenders rather than around them.
Jones meanwhile has been much more decisive when cutting back and shown more elusiveness than Montgomery has. Throw in his improvement in pass protection and the Packers may have a breakout star on their hands.
He also seems to be a centered, down to earth and just overall a good kid. Jones hasn’t forgotten where he’s come from as he’s held up the numbers 9-1-5 during a touchdown celebration to represent the area code of his home town, El Paso, Texas.
Jones is still only a rookie seven games into his NFL career, but the early results are extremely encouraging. There is no doubt he now should be the Packers’ starting running back. A weapon like Jones will be beneficial for a young and developing quarterback like Hundley. Green Bay won’t be solely riding his inexperienced right arm the rest of the way and it also gives McCarthy more flexibility as a play caller.
It also gives Green Bay more options as far as what to do with Montgomery. He still has a lot to offer for the offense and taking the feature back responsibilities away from him could help him find his niche as a ball carrier. Could he be an H-back? Only time will tell, but McCarthy still has faith in his receiver-turned-running back.
Seven games into the season, Jones is definitely the silver lining so far for the Packers. If he can continue to learn and grow, the Packers will have a solid running back for the next few seasons.
It will be a welcome sight, regardless of who is at quarterback. The dark and stormy patch the Packers are currently experiencing could turn into something much more sunny if Jones continues to emerge.
That will be a welcome day for the Packers and their fans.