GREEN BAY — Mike McCarthy is clearly aware of his fan base’s – and fantasy football owners’ – plaintive wails for running back Aaron Jones to get more opportunities.
The Green Bay Packers coach understands why. But it’s not that simple, he insisted, no matter how impressive Jones has been in his limited snaps.
Against the Detroit Lions last Sunday Jones ran seven times for 40 yards in the first half, but never carried the ball after halftime.
“You look at the strengths of all your people and Aaron’s dynamic with the football in his hands,” McCarthy said.
Left unsaid: That Jones isn’t as reliable as a pass protector as Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery, who are playing more snaps than he is.
“I think it’s very obvious the balance we’re seeking from our running back position,” McCarthy continued. “I think it’s one of the strengths that we’ve had since Aaron’s came back. We have three young men that we believe in and three guys that contribute. But there’s more to playing the position than just running the football.”
Jones, who sat out the season’s first two games because of an NFL substance-abuse suspension, has carried 24 times for 147 yards (a team-best 6.1-yard average) since his return. He has the team’s only touchdown run as well as the Packers’ longest run from scrimmage (30 yards).
In the three games since Jones came back, Williams (91 snaps) has been on the field the most, followed by Montgomery (69) and Jones (68). Against the Lions, Williams played 33 snaps, Montgomery played 29 and Jones played 22 – but that total included five snaps on the Packers’ final possession. Jones did convert a third-and-7 with a 12-yard catch and run to keep the drive going.
“I mean, it’s a team game. I know there’s other players on the team who are just as capable as I am. That’s why they’re getting opportunities as well,” Jones said. “You’ve just got to be ready when your number is called. We have three backs that have showed that they can do it, so there’s no reason to sit there and get mad when you have two other backs who are just as productive. You just have to sit and wait for your turn.”
Jones said he was not injured in any way Sunday, so his time on the bench was not injury-related. Asked if he needs to improve in the pass game to get on the field, Jones replied. “I mean, I feel like, honestly, no. But you can always prove yourself. So, it wouldn’t hurt to prove yourself.”
For his part, McCarthy said a greater run/pass option would allow him to play Jones more, and insisted Jones would have gotten more touches had the Packers not dug themselves a 24-0 halftime hole.
“Hey, I’m here to represent to the fans, too. We love Aaron Jones. I know what the statistics are,” McCarthy said. “When you look at offensive production, how many rushes and how many completions you have is a big part of the formula of how you set out to play a game. The formula that was set out to play that game did not fit the outcome as far as how many rushes that we intended to go into the game with. But that’s why we play the game.”
McCarthy said quarterback Aaron Rodgers “is playing through a lot” with his injured left knee, and McCarthy indicated there might be more to his injuries, too.
“He’s not going to make excuses, and I’m not going to stand up here and go that route because he’s playing through a lot,” McCarthy said. “I think what he’s given us is more than — I don’t want to say more than we expected. He’s given us a lot, and that’s the reality of it. But he’s playing through a lot.
Rodgers revealed after the game that he reinjured the knee during the game, which means he’ll have to keep wearing a heavy protective brace. Rodgers had been hoping to be out of the brace sometime after the bye.
Cornerback Kevin King, who returned to action after missing two games with a groin injury, said his groin was fine. His face? Not as much. He took “four or five” stitches after Lions receiver Golden Tate stepped on his face during the fourth quarter as King tried to tackle him. King should be fine, though, and McCarthy is hoping fellow cornerback Jaire Alexander (groin) will play next Monday night against San Francisco.
Meanwhile, wide receiver Randall Cobb, who has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, said he was hopeful he’d play.