At the start of the 2017 season, the Green Bay Packers were high on Ty Montgomery being able to shoulder the rushing load. As many may have predicted, he went through a few injuries, notably his ribs on a couple different occasions. In the end, Montgomery gave way to two different rookies, Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones. Neither impressed early, however, both developed into very serviceable running backs. What is in the cards for the Packers backfield in 2018?
One might say that McCarthy will go with the two-headed monster of Williams and Jones, while others would state McCarthy’s propensity to ride the hot back and go with a more traditional, workhorse style of running the ball. Each player brings a different dynamic to the field. With Williams, the Packers get a strong runner who picks up the tough yards after contact. The Packers have asked him to get quicker this offseason as he lacks the home run threat. With Williams, the Packers gain a dependable blitz pickup running back who seems to always fall forward after contact. He surely doesn’t wow you with his athletic ability, but he seemingly knows where the hole is, has great cutback vision and runs hard enough to break tackles. If he does pick up some quickness and overall speed, Williams might be the back Green Bay really hasn’t had consistently since Ahman Green. Yes, Eddie Lacy had some flashes but he surely hasn’t done it over the long haul like Green had.
Aaron Jones, on the other hand, is a different animal. Jones has the ability to take the ball to the house on any given play. He showed flashes of potential in several games, including a game-winning run in overtime against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lambeau last year. Jones has the foot speed that Williams lacks and he seems to have big-play potential as well. Having said that, why would the Packers even consider not starting Aaron Jones with Williams as his backup? Well, the real reason may lie in areas in which stats don’t typically show. One reason why Aaron Jones is hard to have on the field is his blitz pickup ability (or lack thereof). The Packers are still a team who throws the ball to set up the run. With a pass-first mentality and one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to lace them up, why would they put a running back in there that is not rock solid in pass protection? In order for Jones to see the field and see it regularly, he will definitely have to pick up that part of the game. The coaching staff will not risk another injury to Rodgers because the back doesn’t know where the blitz is coming from.
In the end, here is how I see the running back conundrum playing out. Williams will come to camp a little bit leaner. We will see some quick twitch in his step and he will move a lot faster in 2018. I see Williams winning the starting role for the Packers in 2018. Having said that, I also see McCarthy changing his philosophy a little bit as well. Aaron Jones is far too talented to have sitting on the sidelines play in and play out. You will see Aaron Jones develop into one of the best third-down running backs in the entire NFL. If this does indeed come to fruition, the Packers offense will be as explosive as ever. Philbin knows how to game plan and Rodgers will be the benefactor of this recharged running attack. The play action game will be lethal this year as the second level of defenses will finally need to respect the run. When the defenses that the Packers face respect the run and load up the box, be prepared to see more of Rodgers’ arm finding multiple targets throughout the season. This will be the recipe for a resurgence in 2018 for our Green Bay Packers. As always, Go Pack Go!
Robert Martin bleeds green and gold despite living in North Dakota, where many cheer for the purple. He is currently a writer for PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter @robertmartinPHD.