Olivia Reiner and Ryan Wood discuss how A.J. Dillon's arrival will affect the RB workload and how he might impact Aaron Jones' future in Green Bay. Packers News
GREEN BAY – Don’t make the mistake of telling Aaron Jones he played in all 16 games last season. Math is important for a running back entering a contract year, and Jones knows his precisely.
“Eighteen games,” Jones said Wednesday after finishing a workout in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, where the sun was so hot it overheated his phone, forcing him inside for his Zoom meeting with reporters.
It’s an important distinction, because the 1,000 rushing yards, 1,500 total yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns (tied with Carolina's Christian McCaffrey for most in the NFL) weren’t enough to encapsulate Jones’ breakout season. That Jones stayed healthy to play a full regular season for the first time in his three-year career was merely a precursor.
Jones had 149 more total yards in the playoffs. Three more touchdowns. He reached 16 games and showed no signs of slowing down.
“I’m doing the same things I did last year,” Jones said, “because I feel like the things I did last offseason helped me prepare and stay healthy for this past season, to help me complete all 18 games and not have any problems. Just kind of continuing to do that and continuing to just work my craft on the field more so.”
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Of course, this isn’t like last year. Jones, whose son Aaron Jones Jr. was born April 17, has one season left on his four-year, rookie contract. One week after Jones’ longtime girlfriend, Crystal Molina, gave birth to their son, the Packers drafted Jones’ potential replacement in the second round.
Jones, playing for something more, surely knows what A.J. Dillon’s arrival could mean for his future, but he said it won’t change how he approaches this season. Dillon immediately started texting Jones after the draft, trying to learn the playbook as quickly as possible, and Jones said he’s “excited” to help his rookie teammate.
In the meantime, Jones knows there’s business to handle.
“Whether it’s my first year or my last year on a deal,” Jones said, “I’m going to be just as motivated. It doesn’t change just because a contract is on the line for me. I mean, I’m going to continue to work and do everything in my power. I trust my agency and the Packers.
“With that, I would love to be a lifelong Packer. That’s my take on that.”
At the NFL scouting combine in February, PackersNews reported there was mutual interest between Jones and the team in reaching a contract extension. Whether an agreement eventually is reached could depend on a confluence of factors, including Dillon’s development as a rookie. Coach Matt LaFleur wants to operate a heavy run offense in Aaron Rodgers’ waning years as starting quarterback, so it’s possible the Packers could extend Jones even if Dillon is ready to take a larger role in his second season.
But the team will have many difficult decisions next spring. Left tackle David Bakhtiari, defensive tackle Kenny Clark, cornerback Kevin King and center Corey Linsley are also scheduled to become free agents after 2020. Money is going to be tight.
“I’m not really looking at the market,” Jones said. “I’m just focused on myself. I feel like I can play at a really high and elite level for a very long time. I’m just going to do what I can and hopefully that leads to me being a Packer for life. That’s my goal.”
Jones said he’s focusing on what he can control. That starts with his health, whether he can stay on the field for 16 games, 18 or even more. Jones referenced Wednesday his appearance on NFL Network host Rich Eisen’s radio show last year, when he first mentioned wanting to lead the league in touchdowns. “When I said it,” Jones said, “people were probably like, ‘Who is this guy? He’s not even a full-time starter.’” That was then. Jones will sneak up on nobody this fall.
Defenses were already adjusting to Jones midway through last season. At first, he would be covered by a linebacker when split wide. More and more, he started seeing safeties in coverage, or even a corner.
“Sometimes,” he said, “I would have a linebacker underneath with safety help over the top.”
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With defenses better prepared, Jones knows he must be also. He’s made the most of this virtual reality offseason. His father, Alvin Jones, built an at-home gym in his garage. There are yoga mats. Kettle bells. Resistance bands. Dumbbells. Ladders. Jones recently bought a JUGS machine. Dad feeds it footballs, keeping Jones’ hands sharp.
Jones has also worked out at the local high school. Local quarterbacks throw him passes as he runs routes, same as last season. Staying social-distancing conscious, Jones said he’s careful not to stand closer than 6 feet apart.
He hopes all the work leads to another standout season, and with it a big second NFL contract. Jones would prefer that contract to be with the Packers.
“I trust my agents and I trust the Packers,” he said, “and I just do what I can control and I’ll just continue to do what I’ve been doing. I trust them to get a deal done, and it’s not up to me. It’s nothing I can control. That’s what I was always told as a little kid: control what you can control. So if I can control what I can control, I feel like it will be taken care of.”