GREEN BAY – First, Aaron Jones asked rookie cornerback Ka’dar Hollman. Then he asked rookie safety Darnell Savage. The question, simple as it was, proved difficult to answer.
So inside the Green Bay Packers locker room Friday, Jones sought some more help.
When the Packers travel to the Detroit Lions on Sunday to close their regular season, Jones is likely to reach two major milestones for the first time in his career. He’s sitting on 984 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns this season. So the question was also appropriate, given the occasion.
Would it mean more for Jones to have 1,000 rushing yards or 20 touchdowns?
“Not a lot of people score 20 touchdowns,” Jones reasoned, “but not a lot of people rush for 1,000 yards. I feel like that's kind of something that's hard to do, a little overlooked in the league. But that's a head scratcher right there.
“Can I get back to you on that one?”
Given more context, and the opinion of his teammates as he left the locker room, Jones finally decided.
Yes, reaching 1,000 yards would be meaningful. Those four digits are how NFL running backs measure themselves. But that’s mostly because 20 touchdowns is so lofty, so rare, so unthinkable, it doesn’t enter consideration.
Only three players this decade have reached 20 touchdowns in a season: Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (21 in 2018), Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (20, 2016) and Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (20, 2011). Jones would be the fourth.
Because of its rarity, Jones said the touchdowns would be more special.
“That’s the one I want,” Jones said. “I want to be in that elite conversation.”
Jones is having an elite season, even if he wasn’t selected to the Pro Bowl. He has already exceeded the 13 total touchdowns he had in his first two seasons. With 192 yards Sunday – an unlikely number, as the Packers would prefer not to run him into the ground entering the playoffs – Jones would equal his rushing total from his first two seasons combined.
If the NFL had a most-improved award, Jones would be in the conversation. Not that anyone inside the Packers' locker room is surprised. Davante Adams, the Packers’ top receiver, said he called Jones’ career ascension as a rookie.
“Just the way he ran,” Adams said. “There was something about the way he went about his business. I noticed IPWs (individual player workouts), OTAs (organized team activities), in that time period he had a crazy focus, really militant. I came to find out his parents were in the military later, so it made a lot of sense. Head down, just working type of guy.
“He still had some baby fat at that point, too. He’s all shredded up now. He looks as good as he’s playing right now, which is obviously going to help no matter what.”
As a team, the Packers’ goal this week in Detroit is obvious. A win secures at least a first-round bye, and potentially home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, if the Seattle Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers at home.
But it’s clear, in appreciation of what Jones has done this season for the offense, the Packers also would like to see their running back meet some impressive milestones.
“That’d be awesome,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “It’d be pretty cool. Obviously we’d love to get him 1,000 (yards) because I think he’s earned it. He ran really hard all year and has been a big part of our success. Twenty touchdowns would be fantastic. … That’s a pretty big number for a running back, especially in this day and age when you’re seeing less feature backs and less guys have 1,000 yards.”
Packers retain Lucas Patrick
Backup guard Lucas Patrick has been signed to a contract extension, the team said Saturday. Patrick received a two-year extension worth $3.6 million, a source said, and the deal includes a $350,000 signing bonus.
The Packers like Patrick's versatility and the depth he provides on the interior offensive line. Patrick would have become a unrestricted free agent after the season.
Jamaal Williams update
The Packers didn’t officially close the door on running back Jamaal Williams playing Sunday, but coach Matt LaFleur made it clear that Williams’ availability was unlikely.
Williams missed practice Friday with the shoulder injury that forced him to drop out of Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. Williams was listed as doubtful on Friday’s injury report, but LaFleur said he’s not expecting his backup running back to play.
“I think we’ll probably hold him back this week and move forward with the guys we have,” LaFleur said.
Fullback Danny Vitale (knee) and safety Will Redmond (hamstring) were also listed as doubtful. Receiver Jake Kumerow (illness) was questionable.
Even if the Packers are treating this week as a playoff game, the Lions are not a playoff-caliber opponent. It’s unclear whether Williams would play if this were an actual postseason game, but the Packers (12-3) should be able to beat the Lions (3-11-1) without Williams. That would ensure at least one week of rest before the playoffs truly begin, and perhaps two.
Adams' season numbers
On Oct. 30, after just over a month of dealing with a right toe injury suffered against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 26 that knocked him out of four games, Adams was asked about making up for lost time when he returned to the field.
“At this point, I’m not competing with people to be the leading receiver in the league,” he said before his return to action against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 9. “Obviously, my focus every week is to be the best receiver in the league. I mean, I missed a month of football. It’s going to be tough to catch (New Orleans’) Mike Thomas at this point. I’m not really concerned with that. My focus is to make sure I’m being a good teammate and continue to be a good leader, and do what I do when I get on the field.”
Adams was prescient in one aspect: Thomas has gone on to set the single-season NFL record for catches with 145.
But despite missing four full games, there’s Adams sitting at No. 20 in the league with 76 receptions.
Of that top 20, he is the only player not to have appeared in at least 13 of his team’s games. And he is the 13th receiver on the list.
His final catch Monday in Minnesota actually made this the second-best season in Adams’ career in terms of total receptions, after the career-best 111 from a year ago. And he is 94 yards away from the second-best total in his career in that category, and 96 away from his second straight 1,000-yard campaign.
“To see how he’s been able to fight back through that and get on the field and be efficient and still be able to route the way that he does and start and stop, you see it get better and better,” Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “I don’t even know if he’s 100% yet. But you see it continually get better throughout the season once he’s been back. It just shows, you throw him a little 1-yard pass and he can get it to 9. The one on the left side he broke the tackle and got 9 yards, I mean, that was awesome. I think he’s doing a really good job. He’s just going to continue to feel better and utilize him more and more.”