In week two, the Green Bay Packers all but secured a victory over the Minnesota Vikings. A certain roughing the passer penalty went against the Packers as the Vikings drove down the field for a game-tying drive. Had Green Bay’s offense been able to put the game away with a third-and-short opportunity midway through the fourth quarter, it may have won the game without late drama. With a couple more options on the ground this time around, the Packers may be better positioned to pick up critical short-yardage third downs through the running game.
One of those weapons is Aaron Jones, who sat out the first game due to suspension. In Jones’ absence, Jamaal Williams received the bulk of the carries and rushed for just 59 yards and a 3.7-yard average. Although he added three receptions for 12 yards in the passing game, Williams did not provide enough of an impact. Enter Jones this time around, who has averaged 6.5 yards and tallied seven touchdowns in the past three games, and the Packers have a newfound playmaker both rushing and receiving. Without a doubt, the Packers have failed to fully utilize the second-year back, but on Sunday night, the Packers can once again re-establish a level of balance while neutralizing the Vikings’ pass rushers with screens through Jones.
While Jones will show up in the Vikings’ film sessions this week, Minnesota has not had much experience with the Packers’ lead back. As a rookie in 2017, Jones received 13 carries for 41 yards in a week six road loss. He also was given just three carries for 13 yards in week 15 with Williams getting 15 hand-offs as the first-team running back. While Williams should continue to spell Jones and grind out tough yardage, Jones’ much more decisive running style should provide Green Bay with more positive gains and manageable distances to sustain drives. He also represents a home-run hitting trait that no other back on the roster possesses.
In addition, a brace-less Aaron Rodgers should be a benefit to the Green Bay running game. In the last meeting with Minnesota, Rodgers was immediately returning to action after injuring his knee against Chicago. As a result, the Packers’ initial game plan was to call quick pass plays designed to limit the number of quarterback hits on the franchise player. This time around, Rodgers’ mobility should be more of an asset to the Packers than his meager three caries for eight yards in September.
In 2018, the Vikings have been beaten by a pair of running quarterbacks when plays break down. Josh Allen rushed for 39 yards and two scores in week three, while Mitchell Trubisky rushed for 43 yards on 10 carries just last week in Chicago. In a season in which the Packers have struggled mightily to pick up third downs through the air, Rodgers ability to step up and run will be a critical dimension of the Packers’ offense and there is little doubt that he will roll out of the pocket frequently on passing downs.
Running on the Vikings’ defense is no easy feat. Minnesota is once again stingy against the run in 2018, ranking fourth in yards allowed per game at 94.8. They are tied for second with just five touchdowns given up on the ground this season and have forced 11 fumbles in that area of the game. They have not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.
Behind Jones and Rodgers, the Packers do not have to have a single player eclipse the century mark. But the duo should help the offense pick up the crucial first downs that it lacked in the previous meeting.