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Cheese Curds, 5/17: Packers RB Aaron Jones is poised to break out as a receiver

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The third-year back is in a perfect situation to expand his contributions in the passing game.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Even if he remains healthy all season, Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones might not hit 1,000 yards rushing in 2019. That is not a criticism of him, but rather an acknowledgement that the Packers have several talented running backs who will likely share the load on the ground.

However, Jones has a particularly good opportunity to have a breakout season as a receiver this fall. He has shown all the skills and route-running necessary for that in the past, both at UTEP and in glimpses while wearing green and gold. But it is Matt LaFleur’s (and to an extent Nathaniel Hackett’s) arrival in Green Bay that suggests that Jones will take a big step forward in his receiving production.

LaFleur has been a part of plenty of offenses that featured productive receiving backs — something APC discussed shortly after his hire — and last year’s Titans offense saw Dion Lewis catch an impressive 59 passes. His history in Los Angeles and Atlanta shows more of the same. However, Hackett’s offenses in Jacksonville and Buffalo actually have used their running backs heavily as receivers as well. Fred Jackson was a highly productive receiving back for the Bills — he caught 66 passes for 501 yards in 2014 under Hackett — while T.J. Yeldon and even Leonard Fournette put up significant receiving numbers as well for the Jaguars.

All this combines to suggest that Jones, whose skill set makes him the obvious starter in LaFleur’s scheme, will take a massive step forward in the passing game this year. He already did a year ago, improving from 9 receptions and 22 yards as a rookie to 26 catches for 206 yards. But with the backs likely to get more opportunities, look for Jones to eclipse 40 receptions in 2019.

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This pass design has a number of different options depending on the defense's reaction to it, giving Aaron Rodgers the ability to take what the defense gives him. Jones would be a great option here, as his explosiveness should let him pick up significant yards after the catch.

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