Aaron Jones: 42 snaps. Jamaal Williams: 14 snaps. That’s more like it.
Jones had himself a day against the Miami Dolphins, rushing 15 times for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns - and yes, that’s nearly 10 YPC. Incredible. What fueled Jones’ day, in addition to his natural ability to read running lanes, have tremendous quickness, and make something out of nothing, was a pretty good day from the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line. While David Bakhtiari didn’t have his usual dominant performance, the rest of the line played well and opened up some great lanes for Jones to run through. Let’s go through Jones’ big day on film.
On his first carry of the game, Jones picks up twelve yards as Green Bay goes with 12 personnel and runs a split zone with Kendricks coming across from the backside to pickup the end man on the line of scrimmage. The initial point of attack is to the left tackle, but this play design has cutback lanes designed into it with the blocking of the backside tackle going to the second level while the split man, Kendricks, coming across the formation to act as a lead blocker for a cutback. Corey Linsley does a textbook job with his combo block, as he gives Lane Taylor’s man a good shove and works his way up to the middle linebacker. Bakhtiari does the same thing with the defender lined up over Marcedes Lewis, and even though he falls down, he’s able to get in the way of his linebacker to slow him down.
The Dolphins flow heavy to the playside. and since Linsley shoved the DT all the way over into the hole, Jones is forced to bend his run back inside. A good cut block by Byron Bell on the backside, along with the great work by Linsley, mean there’s a huge hole for Jones to work back to. He slips a diving tackle attempt and only gets stopped by the last defender on the field, a scraping safety.
Just three plays later, after a pair of Aaron Rodgers dropbacks, Jones gets the handoff on a sprint draw from the strong I formation, something we don’t see very often. Rodgers has his eyes downfield on his first step after taking the handoff, as if he is dropping back to pass. Both Jones and Kendricks, as the fullback, take a hesitation step before getting the ball and blocking, respectively. Jones, apparently trying to one-up himself, gets 15 yards this time.
There’s an added wrinkle to the blocking scheme that I really want to highlight, and it’s what makes this play go from getting three yards to picking up fifteen.
Right tackle Brian Bulaga and Jimmy Graham sell the pass even more than a Rodgers head fake. Graham cuts inside and runs up to the linebacker, and Bulaga takes a pass set.
By not bothering with the man covering him and taking a few steps downfield, it looks like Graham is heading out to run a route. Bulaga’s pass set allows his defensive end to rush upfield and take himself out of the play. The linebacker initially reads pass, and by the time Jimmy Graham gets to him, he hasn’t moved an inch off his initial starting line.
Jones smartly recognizes where Graham blocks his man, Kendricks makes a good block on the middle linebacker, and Jones bends the run outside for a big gain.
Graham doesn’t get much of his guy but he didn’t need to; Jones had already turned on the burners and made it to the safety. The play design was good and the execution matched; just don’t pay attention to Linsley bear-hugging the backside linebacker.
Jones had a quiet second quarter, but picked things back up in the third. With the ball on the Miami 22 yard line, Green Bay went heavy and brought in three tight ends. The Dolphins counter with 8 defenders in the box, but it was not enough. The Packers run a simple inside zone play behind Byron Bell, with combo blocks on the DT’s. Akeem Spence does a decent job taking on the block of Bell and Linsley and pushes his way a yard into the backfield, and this causes Jones to again bend the run outside of the originally planned hole.
Jones should enter a limbo competition he can bend so well. As soon as he gets the handoff, his eyes are up and searching for the right hole to hit. In this case, he sees Spence in his lap and Kiko Alonso looming right behind them in the B gap.
As he cuts to the outside he gives a little shoulder fake, which causes Cameron Wake to shed Bulaga’s block and jump inside. It actually works to Bulaga’s favor, as Wake is a half step too slow, and it allows Bulaga to get his hands on Kiko Alonso, the guy Bell was supposed to eventually block.
Jones capitalized on the 2 for 1 block by Bulaga and had himself a nice gain. The nicest part of the run, however, may have been the finish; at one point, Jones found himself like this:
And he still managed to pickup another yard. I’ve written about it before, but this guy’s body control is top notch. I mean, this shouldn’t be possible:
Jones was feeling it, and McCarthy knew when to feed him the ball. On the very next play, Jones got the carry on another split zone run, and this time it was Equanimeous St. Brown as the crossing blocker.
Jones again bends a run back with success. Open up your own yoga studio, Aaron; you have more bends than a bad deep sea diver. Shoutout to Byron Bell, who makes a big block without even looking.
The thing I can’t get over with this play is how Bulaga absolutely cleans out Akeem Spence. This is Spence to start the play:
And this is Spence by the time Jones crosses the line of scrimmage:
Demolished. Spence should really be thanking Bulaga though - Brian was just trying to take Spence to the concessions to buy him a bratwurst and a Miller Lite. It’s important to note that Jones could have stayed on his east-west trajectory and ran behind ESB, but again, Jones makes the most of what his blockers and the defense give him, and his quickness and body control get him extra yardage over an average back.
The last clip I wanted to highlight wasn’t all credit to the Packers’ offensive line; this credit goes to Jones for being able to get skinny and find a crease to squeeze through.
Green Bay runs another inside zone play to the right, with combo blocks between Graham and Kendricks, and Bulaga and Bell. Keep your eye on #55 for Miami, rookie Jerome Baker.
He’s a half second slow to fill the gap as he doesn’t read the linemen, but is instead waiting for the playaction in the backfield. The other linebackers are already stepping up, but Baker hasn’t moved by the time Graham peels off to attack him.
Again, Graham doesn’t get much in the way of a block, but it gives Jones just enough room to turn his shoulders slightly and squeeze through. The speed at which Jones reads the blocks in front of him is crucial; if he’s any slower, Baker beats Graham or Kendricks gets pushed backwards into the hole.
A look at Jones’ rushing chart for the afternoon gives you a look at how successful he was at starting on one side of the line and running to the other; by starting horizontally and delaying the timing of when he crosses the line of scrimmage, it gives the linemen an extra step to seal their blocks and allows Jones a split second more to find the proper hole. He’s so good at bending runs that he can find any hole on the line on any play.
Not every run is going to go for 8+ yards, but that’s the nature of the run game. Jones is the NFL’s leader in YPC among qualified players. That fact alone should merit Jones getting more touches. APC’s own managing editor think Jones should be the focal point of the offense with a struggling Aaron Rodgers; if last Sunday’s gameplan against Miami is a foretelling of the future, he may be right. For the sake of the Packers and their playoff chances, let’s hope he is.