Aaron Jones' knee injury opens door for Jamaal Williams
GREEN BAY - Ever since Eddie Lacy played his final snap for the Green Bay Packers last October, the only consistent element of his former employer’s rushing attack has been the ongoing state of change, something that is expected to continue after injuries to a pair of tailbacks during Sunday’s win over the Chicago Bears.
Rookie Aaron Jones is expected to miss several weeks with a knee injury after dropping out in the first quarter at Soldier Field, according to coach Mike McCarthy, and multiple reports said Jones sustained damage to his MCL. It is typically a three- to six-week injury.
Jones’ replacement, Ty Montgomery, lasted into the second quarter of Sunday’s game before he dropped out as well. Montgomery aggravated a rib injury suffered in the first meeting against the Bears in late September. He did not play in the second half and declined to speak with reporters after the game.
“I would say Aaron’s a multiple-week injury,” McCarthy said. “Ty, I think they’re still working exams and so forth. I would think he has a chance (to play) this week.”
Regardless of Montgomery’s availability, there is a strong chance rookie Jamal Williams enters Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens as the featured back after an impressive relief performance in Chicago. Williams, a fourth-round pick from Brigham Young, played with aggression and force to preserve a victory that snapped his team’s three-game losing streak. He carried 20 times for 67 yards and broke seven tackles, according to offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett, in what was easily the best performance of his young career.
“I thought Jamaal Williams played excellent,” McCarthy said. “He was actually a game-ball winner on special teams, and then you look at the way he played on offense. He clearly played his best football as a Green Bay Packer, the way he came in there and ran the football at the time where you needed to run it. He had phone-booth style runs and he delivered. I was very impressed with the way he played.”
Williams separated himself from fellow rookies Jones, a fifth-round pick, and Devante Mays, a seventh-round pick in the early portions of OTAs and training camp. He excelled in pass protection and as a runner during first- and second-team reps behind Montgomery. By the end of camp, Williams was entrenched as the No. 2 tailback.
But Williams tumbled down the depth chart when Jones exploded for 125 yards and a touchdown in his first start.
Williams received another chance against the Bears because he was the only healthy tailback remaining on the roster with Mays inactive. The end result showcased significant growth in a short period of time.
“Total confidence change I think (from) the way he started in the season,” McCarthy said. “You could see in training camp he clearly was ahead of the other two rookies, and I think when the season started he was trying to do it right. He was trying to do things right. The ball carriage was different for him. He was thinking too much.
“And frankly, the opportunity taken away from him with Aaron stepping in there, his hunger never changed. You could see just the way he went from being behind Ty to the way he played on special teams. He’s really developed into a heck of a special teams player, particularly on kickoff coverage and just the way he goes down there. It’s something that he obviously doesn’t have a lot of experience in. And then when he got in there (Sunday), he cut it loose. He took a big step and I would say the key to it is confidence.”
The injuries to Jones and Montgomery should provide an increased opportunity for Mays as well. Mays has been inactive for six of the Packers’ nine games this season and played only on special teams during the weeks he made the game-day roster. He will likely be active against the Ravens regardless of Montgomery’s status, and the coaches spoke highly of his development during news conferences Monday.
“He’s coming along,” Bennett said. “He’s doing a pretty good job in practice. That’s the starting point. He’s working hard and making sure he’s well-prepared so when he gets his opportunity he’ll be ready to go.”