Detroit Lions, NFC North positional previews: Running Backs
Green Bay Packers
Key returning players: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams
New additions: Dexter Williams (R)
Key losses: None
Not unlike the Lions, the Green Bay Packers haven’t had a 1,000 yard rusher in a while; not since Eddie Lacy topped 1,100 yards for them in 2014. Also similar to Detroit, the Packers think that they have found the answer in an electric young running back, but one who has had trouble staying on the field to start his career.
In his second season, Aaron Jones led the NFL with a 5.5 yards per carry average. He has shown some explosive ability in his first two seasons, and is one of the brightest young offensive stars in the NFC. He missed the first two games of 2018 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, and the last two due to a knee injury.
Jones focused on a more nutritious diet this offseason, and should be a critical piece of the Packers’ offense this season as the unquestioned number one back. Not unlike the Lions’ Kerryon Johnson, Jones should have no trouble topping 1,000 yards should he be able to stay on the field for a full season.
Backing him up will be another second year rusher in Jamaal Williams, who was actually selected a round earlier (fourth) than Jones (fifth) in the 2017 draft. Unlike Jones, Williams hasn’t missed a game yet in his young career. However, he lacks Jones’ explosion, averaging less than 4.0 yards per carry in his two seasons. He isn’t built to be a starter, but he’s a sturdy runner who’s a good fit for new head coach Matt LaFleur’s run-heavy scheme.
Rookie sixth-rounder Dexter Williams offers the Packers a talented, versatile option out of the backfield who could challenge the other Williams for snaps early in the year. The younger Williams though, couldn’t stay out of trouble at Notre Dame, likely contributing to his draft day slide.
The Packers’ offense will clearly go as quarterback Aaron Rodgers goes, as it has for the majority of his career. However, LaFleur is likely to try and take pressure off of Rodgers with a reliable running game after orchestrating the eighth highest rushing total last season as offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans. That approach will revolve around Jones’ availability in 2019.