Sports

Packers offseason preview: Will the running backs be more involved in the passing game?

Packers RB Aaron Jones (Harrison Barden/USA Today sports)

Our Packers offseason positional previews continue with a look at the running backs. Here are the running backs currently on the roster:

Aaron Jones (24, third NFL season)

Jamaal Williams (23, third NFL season)

Kapri Bibbs (26, sixth NFL season)

Tra Carson (26, fourth NFL season)

Lavon Coleman (24, second NFL season)

Playing on a team run by the quarterback—in a league run by quarterbacks—must be trying at times. Over the past decade, with the NFL becoming increasingly pass-happy, teams simply aren’t relying on workhorse running backs like they used to. So it stands to reason that what sets running backs apart in today’s NFL is the ability to affect games through both the rushing and passing attacks.

Speculation has swirled around new head coach Matt LaFleur with regard to how he’ll use his running backs in Green Bay. If the coaches he has worked under and alongside are any indication, it’s fair to assume LaFleur will look to get his backs more involved in the passing game. With that in mind, let’s dive into how the Packers’ current running backs have fared receiving in their respective careers.

Aaron Jones: 35 receptions, 228 yards (6.5 ypr), one touchdown

Jamaal Williams: 52 receptions, 472 yards (9.1 ypr), two touchdowns

Kapri Bibbs: 32 receptions, 318 yards (9.9 ypr), three touchdowns

Neither Carson nor Coleman have stats of any consequence, and if we’re being honest, both are probably longshots to be in Green Bay in anything more than a practice squad capacity for 2019.

Based on the numbers above, you certainly wouldn’t expect any of the three players listed to be gamebreakers in the passing game. For reference, Williams’ 472 receiving yards over the past two seasons put him 33rd among running backs in that span. Is it groundbreaking to point out the Packers’ running backs haven’t been a huge factor through the air? Not by a long shot—but it could give us some idea of what kind of player they’re looking for if they do decide to add more running backs this offseason.

We’ve seen what Jones and Williams can do. Jones has next-level vision and a wiggle that makes him hard to tackle at the point of attack, and while Williams can also make defenders miss, he finishes his runs with a degree of violence that almost always earns him extra yardage. They might seem like the perfect “thunder and lightning” tandem, but the truth is they have both proven to be effective regardless of situation.

Bibbs is an intriguing player, having played 10 games with Washington in 2018 before being waived, eventually signing with Green Bay. He was a third-stringer with the Redskins, playing behind Adrian Peterson and Samaje Perine, but posted 103 rushing yards on 21 total attempts to go along with 115 yards on 16 receptions. The numbers make you wonder what he could do given more opportunities, though opportunities may be hard to come by given Jones and Williams have established themselves atop the depth chart.

As far as player acquisition goes, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if the Packers look to add another running back at some point during the offseason, particularly one with more proficient pass-catching abilities. While it remains to be seen what Matt LaFleur has in store for Williams and Jones, it’s not crazy to think he and Brian Gutekunst could be on the lookout for a dual-threat type of back to add to the mix.

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