Packers grades: Aaron Jones still unproven as a No. 1 running back
Third in a nine-part Packers position-analysis series with 2018 grades.
One of the bigger storylines out of 2018 training camp involved how the fullback was eliminated from the Green Bay Packers' offense. The Packers went with a three-man rotation of running backs Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery. Jones eventually received more playing time once Montgomery was sent to the Baltimore Ravens in a midseason trade, and the team relied heavily on the Jones-Williams combination thereafter.
The run game was effective at times — and when emphasized — with Jones rushing for 70 yards or more in five games and Williams running for 95 against the New York Jets late in the year. When Jones and/or Williams received 15 rush attempts, the Packers went 4-1-1.
Despite ranking dead last in the league for team rushing attempts (333), the Packers were No. 2 in yards per rush (5.0). Quarterback scrambles helped that average as well, but when featured in the offense Jones was dynamic and Williams was workmanlike as runners and the team could run the ball.
Jones and Williams also developed into capable pass receivers, combining for 53 catches.
Jones played just 12 games, and he struggled to see the bulk of the playing time early in the season due to deficiencies in his pass blocking. His season again was ended by an MCL injury. Given a chance to establish himself at the start and end of the season, Williams proved capable at times but no better than a complementary back.
The era of workhorse, three-down running backs has been long over, but none of the Packers' four running backs who carried the ball in 2018 set themselves apart as a tried-and-true No. 1.
A durable, dual-threat option. The Packers could use one player who can stay on the field for an entire 2-minute drill, or in the 4-minute offense, to gain tough yards, pick up blitzes in pass protection and also run good routes with sure hands.
Together, Jones and Williams can fill multiple roles and Kapri Bibbs, added late in the year, is a veteran backup who can fill in when needed. But Jones has yet to put together a full season, and Williams didn’t differentiate himself as a top-flight option. The fullback was eliminated from the offense coming out of camp, but new head coach Matt LaFleur may determine he has a use for one in 2019 and beyond.
Aaron Jones: Began the season with a two-game suspension and ended his year on injured reserve with another MCL injury. But in between, Jones was on pace to become the first running back in franchise history to run for 1,000 yards on fewer than 200 carries (he finished with 728 yards on 133 carries, a 5.5 average). He also ranked sixth on the team in receptions with 26. Grade: B
Jamaal Williams: He split time for most of the season but was the team’s most consistent pass blocker in the backfield. Showed flashes of explosion and power in the run game and developed into a steady outlet in the pass game late in the season. Grade: C+
Dan Vitale: Signed to the active roster Dec. 1, Vitale appeared in just five games and had only 19 offensive plays. Struggled to block at times as a fullback and wasn’t utilized in the pass game. Grade: Incomplete
Kapri Bibbs: Claimed off waivers Dec. 17, he was pressed into action as a fill-in for 17 snaps over the final two weeks of the season. He received one carry and caught three balls. Grade: Incomplete
Lavon Coleman: Signed to the active roster Dec. 22, the rookie played eight special teams snaps in New York on Dec. 23. Grade: Incomplete