After the 2016 season, the Green Bay Packers were looking for a new top running back. Eddie Lacy had just been let go by Green Bay, and options in the backfield were thin. Then-general manager Ted Thompson used two mid-round picks on running backs Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones, in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively. .
The two split snaps and carries until late in the 2018 season, when Jones established himself as the top dog in the backfield. Jones seemed set to dominate snaps for the rest of the season until Williams had a breakout game on Monday Night Football during Week 6 against the Detroit Lions. Williams’ Monday night spectacle set the stage for him to be heavily featured throughout the rest of the Packers campaign.
Looking purely at numbers, it’s clear Williams deserves far more touches than he is receiving. According to the NFL’s PlayerProfiler, Williams is outperforming Jones in nearly every category. The former BYU product has a yards-per-carry average of 4.8 yards, while Jones sports a measly 3.9 yards per carry.
Next, let’s look at another important stat: Evaded tackles. This is obviously a key part in playing running back, as every yard counts. Jones has a total of 112 touches on the young season, and has forced 30 missed tackles. Williams has 52 touches, but forced 18 missed tackles.
Jones has over two times the touches that Williams has, yet Williams isn’t far behind in forced missed tackles, tying directly in with this is the ability to create yardage. NFL’s PlayerProfiler shows that Jones is creating 1.113 yards per carry on his own, regardless of how good the blocking is and other factors. Williams has Jones beat by a mile, as he comes in with 1.83 yards created per carry.
It may not seem like a huge difference, but in a game of inches it could be everything.
What Jones does have going for him is his receiving ability. He’s a much better route runner than Williams, and it shows in how often he’s targeted by quarterback Aaron Rodgers. During two-minute drills and obvious passing situations, Jones will be on the field. Williams just doesn’t have much to offer as a receiver.
One final point in Williams’ favor is his health. As the old saying goes, your best ability is your availability, and despite a recent injury, Williams is usually available. In his NFL career, he’s suffered a concussion and a high ankle sprain. Jones has suffered several injuries, starting with an MCL sprain in his rookie campaign and ending with a knee sprain late in 2018. Jones’s past injuries are far more serious, but hopefully both talented backs can stay on the field and compete.