Aaron Jones: What a Start!
By Eric Goska
Aaron Jones has turned
in quite a start to his NFL career.
Jones, the Packers rookie running back out of the
University of Texas
at El Paso, was the leading ground gainer Sunday
in Dallas. The
relative unknown outperformed Ezekiel Elliott in Green Bay’s 35-31 stunner over the Cowboys at
Jones danced his way to 125 yards on 19 carries in his first NFL start. He accounted for seven of the Packers’ nine rushing first downs. He gained positive yardage on all but two carries.
Most important: his touchdown run late in the second quarter triggered
comeback from 15 points down. His 7-yard burst up the middle with 58 second
left in the half sent Green Bay
on a 29-10 run that didn’t end until Aaron Rodgers found Davante Adams in the
end zone with 11 seconds remaining.
Jones’ big day showed the team doesn’t have to struggle without Ty Montgomery in the lineup. More than that, the rookie breathed life into the Packers’ running game.
Jones ripped off five runs of 10 or more yards. That’s as
many as the team had in its first four games combined.
He cantered for 22 and 15 in the third quarter, runs that were longer than anything the team had managed in its first four outings. His 10-yard burst on fourth-and-1 kept alive a prodigious 14-play, 88-yard advance that ended with a Rodgers-to-Jordy Nelson touchdown and a 22-21 Packers’ lead.
Jones was there on the game-winning drive as well. He carried twice for 17
yards including a 15- yarder to the Dallas 32 with 39 seconds remaining. He kept safety
Byron Jones away from Rodgers on the first play, a 14-yard completion to Adams that started the 75-yard movement.
Back up a month and Jones’ role was far more limited. He was inactive in the opener and saw action on special teams only against the Falcons and Bengals.
Montgomery went out with
broken ribs in the first quarter of the Bears game in Week 4, it was Jamaal
Williams, not Jones, who replaced Montgomery.
Not until Williams injured his knee in the second quarter of that game did
Jones finally get an opportunity in the backfield.
His output that day was modest: 49 yards on 13 carries. He scored his first NFL touchdown on a 2-yard plunge.
Jones did most of his work on first and second down. He carried 13 times for 74
yards on first down and five for 41 yards on second down.
Only twice did he fail to advance the ball. Orlando Scandrick held him without
gain in the second quarter, and Demarcus Lawrence
and Maliek Collins halted him for minus-1 in the third quarter.
failed to do was prevent Jones from outrushing Elliott. The NFL’s leading
rusher last year finished with 116 yards on 29 attempts.
Jones’ impressive start puts him in fast company. He became the sixth Packer in team history to gain 100 or more yards rushing in his first NFL start.
Paul Hornung did it first with 112 yards on 16 carries in a 31-17 loss to the Giants in 1957. Samkon Gado had been the most recent with 103 yards on 25 trips in a 33-25 win over
Jones chewed up more real estate than either Hornung or Gado. Only Najeh Davenport (178 yards) and Jim Taylor (137) amassed more in their first starts than Jones.
Hornung and Taylor went on to have Hall of Fame careers.
Gado and Davenport
just had careers.
Where will Jones end up? It’s anyone’s guess, but judging by his first moves, Jones is headed in the right direction.
Packers who gained 100 or more yards rushing in
their first NFL start.
178 Najeh Davenport Nov. 29, 2004 GB beat Rams 45-17
137 Jim Taylor Dec. 7, 1958 GB lost to 49ers 21-48
125 Aaron Jones Oct. 8, 2017 GB beat Cowboys 35-31
112 Paul Hornung Nov. 3, 1957 GB lost to Giants 17-31
Bennett Nov. 22, 1992 GB
beat Bears 17-3
103 Samkon Gado Nov. 13, 2005 GB beat Falcons 33-25