The Green Bay Packers went 13-3 last season, won the NFC North and reached the NFC Championship Game for a second straight year. The Packers lost to Tampa Bay, though, 31-26, in the conference title game and the offseason has been packed with drama.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers wants out of Green Bay and the sportsbooks in Las Vegas are now bracing for his retirement. Stay tuned for more theatrics in the days ahead.
With or without Rodgers, Green Bay will start training camp practices on July 28. Throughout the rest of the month, I will count down the ‘30 Most Important Packers’ heading into the 2021 campaign.
At No. 7 is running back Aaron Jones. Make no mistake, on most other teams, Jones would be much higher than this. But the fact Green Bay has one of the NFL’s best No. 2 running backs in AJ Dillon drops Jones down a bit.
The other players that have been revealed in the top-30 are listed at the bottom of the story.
RB Aaron Jones
Last season: Jones ran for 1,104 yards, nine touchdowns and averaged 5.5 yards per carry last year. He also helped the Packers finish eighth in the league in rushing, their best finish since 2013 (seventh).
Jones is now tied for second in the NFL the last two seasons with 30 total touchdowns. Jones, Tennessee’s Derrick Henry and Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook are the only three players in the NFL with more 2,000 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns the last two years.
Jones was also third on the team with 47 receptions and added two receiving touchdowns in 2020. In the last two seasons, Jones has 96 catches, the second-most on the roster.
Jones was set to become a free agent in March, but signed a four-year, $48 million deal just before free agency began. The contract is heavily backloaded, though, essentially making it a two-year, $20 million deal.
Career to date: Jones has a whopping career average of 5.17 yards per carry, which ranks No. 5 in league history among backs with at least 600 carries. Jones and the great Jim Brown are the only two players in NFL history to post 3,000-plus rushing yards, 35-plus rushing touchdowns and average more than 5.0 yards per carry in their first four seasons.
Jones has more rushing touchdowns (37) in his first four years than any player in team history. And including the playoffs, Jones set a team record with 23 total touchdowns in 2019.
In 2019, Jones rushed for 1,084 yards and finished the regular season with 16 rushing touchdowns, which tied for the league lead with Tennessee’s Derrick Henry. He also had 19 total touchdowns that season, which tied Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey for the NFL lead.
It’s been a meteoric jump for Jones, a fifth-round draft pick in 2017 who struggled with injuries early in his career. Former coach Mike McCarthy also didn’t give Jones the same type of workload current coach Matt LaFleur has.
Jones averaged a whopping 5.53 yards per carry as a rookie in 2017 and 5.47 yards per attempt in 2018. The pass-happy McCarthy often ignored the running game, though, and Jones averaged just 107 carries per year in his first two seasons.
Outlook: Jones, who’s just 26, should continue as one of the elite multi-purpose backs in the league. And the running back tandem on Jones and Dillon figures to rank among the best in the league.
LaFleur is far more committed to the run than McCarthy ever was. So if Rodgers doesn’t report to the team this week — and even misses games — look for Jones to take on a much greater role.
“He’s just a guy that just continues to get better and better as the season goes along. And it’s not always in the production either. It’s just everything he does, the way he approached the daily grind, the preparation, what he does when he’s not getting the ball is the epitome of a team player. And we sure are lucky to have a guy as dynamic as he is.” — Packers coach Matt LaFleur on Jones
“He’s just been really, really special to watch. There are some guys who you can’t help but pull for, because they do things the right way and Jonesy is one of those guys. He is one of the greatest teammates that I’ve had in 16 years. He is the most respectful teammate, possibly, that I’ve ever had…he’s just such a great kid.” — Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Jones
“This is home for me. This is where my career started and just everything feels right here – the system, I’ve got my home here, I’ve got my teammates, the coaching staff, everything. So it just felt like it was a great fit for me and continue to play where I’ve been playing, and it’s home. I feel like this is a perfect fit for me. I’ve been in this offense. I know what comes with it. I know my teammates here, and we feel like we have unfinished business, so I just feel like it was the right fit for me.” — Jones on why he resigned with Green Bay