Monday, October 9, 2017

Aaron Jones: What a Start!

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 AT&T Stadium.

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 Green Bay’s 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.

When 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.

In Dallas, 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.

What Dallas 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 Atlanta in 2005.

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.

Fast Starts
The six Packers who gained 100 or more yards rushing in their first NFL start.

Yds.     Player                         Date                            Result
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
107      Edgar Bennett               Nov. 22, 1992             GB beat Bears 17-3

103      Samkon Gado              Nov. 13, 2005             GB beat Falcons 33-25


  1. I would expect Brent "I have a tummy ache" Fullwood would be on the list. I was wondering how good Jones did. You answered my questions. Nice article!

    1. Well...There you go again, O'Connor!