Aaron Jones Is the Playmaker the Packers Desperately Need

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistNovember 12, 2018

Aaron Jones, de los Packers de Green Bay, se escapa 67 yardas en la primera mitad del juego ante los Dolphins de Miami el domingo 11 de noviembre de 2018 en Green Bay. (AP Foto/Matt Ludtke)
Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

There is a wealth of evidence that the Green Bay Packers cannot make a Super Bowl run without steady support for quarterback Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers is the highest-rated passer in NFL history, but for much of this decade he's been tasked with having to carry a team that has lacked offensive imagination, offensive weapons and offensive balance and had its fair share of defensive problems as well. 

Sure enough, the Packers haven't reached a Super Bowl in any of their last seven seasons. 

But on Sunday, Rodgers didn't have to be the hero. He didn't have to pull a seemingly ill-equipped supporting cast across the finish line like in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears or in Week 6 against the San Francisco 49ers.

That's because Aaron Jones has arrived. 

Put another way, that's because the Packers have finally allowed Aaron Jones to arrive. 

The second-year running back already led all qualified backs with a 6.0 yards-per-attempt average prior to Sunday's 31-12 victory over the Miami Dolphins, but Jones exploded for a career-high 145 yards on 15 carries to go along with three catches for 27 more yards in a two-touchdown performance. 

Bleacher Report NFL @BR_NFL

Aaron Jones. WHEELS. (via @NFL) https://t.co/pV6TsTGavi

It marked the first time Jones has carried the ball 15 times in a game since last October, despite the fact that among backs with at least 150 attempts since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, the 2017 fifth-round pick out of UTEP ranks first by a wide margin with a 6.1 yards-per-attempt average. 

In a must-win game for Green Bay, it was Jones who set the tone early. On the team's first offensive possession, it looked like he was going to lose yardage on a 2nd-and-10 play before a nifty cut led to a 12-yard gain. He picked up 15 more yards two plays later and then took a screen 19 yards into the red zone to set up a touchdown pass from Rodgers to Davante Adams. 

Minutes later, when Green Bay got the ball back leading 7-3, Jones was the only means of offense for the Packers on a three-play, 71-yard drive that started with a 67-yard run that required tremendous burst behind the line of scrimmage and ended with a short, powerful touchdown rush. 

Michael Cohen @Michael_Cohen13

I asked Byron Bell if he's ever seen another running back hit the line of scrimmage with as much speed as Aaron Jones. This is some serious praise from Bell. #Packers found a gem: https://t.co/UkPcm12e8u

Rob Demovsky @RobDemovsky

Aaron Jones hit a max speed of 21.33 MPH on his 67-yard run, the fastest top speed by a Packers ball carrier in the last 3 seasons according to NFL Next Gen Stats. https://t.co/HlkCCIHUHx

When Miami made things interesting by closing to within two points in the third quarter, it was again Jones who made plays to help the Green Bay offense regain the momentum. He picked up a combined 22 yards on back-to-back carries midway through said quarter, the second of which resulted in a touchdown that gave the Packers a two-score lead. 

It was never close again. 

It was by no means the Aaron Jones Show all afternoon at Lambeau Field. A back that hot probably should be getting more work, but it's worth noting that Rodgers was still—and to an extent still probably had to be—his excellent self, completing 19 of 28 passes for 199 yards in yet another turnover-free outing (his seventh in nine games). 

And a lot of credit belongs to an offensive line that was opening up holes the size of Suzuki hatchbacks. Plus, Adams scored two touchdowns, emerging rookie receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught six of the seven passes thrown his way and the defense surrendered fewer than 300 yards while keeping Miami out of the end zone. 

It's an indication that Rodgers just might have enough help for the Packers to contend—a sign that the pieces are there. Jones might be the most important piece aside from No. 12, and his 48 touches in the last three weeks (despite a costly fumble in Week 9) suggest that even Packers head coach Mike McCarthy—who has often been reluctant to ride with Jones—finally realizes that.  

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 11:  Aaron Jones #33 of the Green Bay Packers runs the ball against Reshad Jones #20 of the Miami Dolphins during the second half of a game at Lambeau Field on November 11, 2018 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Dylan Buell/Gett
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Rodgers might not have enough team-carrying acts in him this year. In spite of generally strong numbers—he's thrown 17 touchdown passes to one interception—the 34-year-old hasn't been as lights-out as usual and has at times struggled outside of those aforementioned heroic moments. While continuing to deal with a relatively significant knee injury, he entered Sunday as merely the league's 13th-highest-rated passer while possessing his lowest completion percentage (60.6) since he became a starter in 2008.

It's possible the Packers still aren't capable of beating elite opponents without near-perfect performances from Rodgers, and it's possible those performances won't come often enough. But if Jones can continue to make plays, there might at least be a minuscule margin for error at the quarterback position in Green Bay. 

With that in mind, you might have to hold off on that eulogy for the 2018 Green Bay Packers.


Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.