I know everyone loves to hate Mike McCarthy, heck, I wouldn’t even be sad if he was fired (although I’d like to know what comes next), but I’m over this narrative that he’s misusing Aaron Jones.
It may have taken a little time when he was coming back from his suspension, but Aaron Jones has been used just fine the last few weeks.
But Aaron Jones Is So Good
Yes, Aaron Jones is a stud. Yes, he’s leading the NFL in yards per carry and explosive run frequency. But that doesn’t mean you give him the ball every down.
For one, this is a passing league and you don’t run every down. Second, even if he isn’t playing to his standards, this is an Aaron Rodgers team. Third – and most importantly – Aaron Jones has a big injury history. He doesn’t play quarterback, where big hugs now qualify as sacks and defenders hurt themselves or let QBs escape rather than risk a penalty on a hit.
Running backs get lit up.
He was hurt in college, which likely played a role in his draft position, and he had two injuries as a rookie that severely limited his time. That would be enough to make me a little gun shy if I was calling the plays, too… that and the fact that I have Aaron Rodgers.
Aaron Jones is barely 200 pounds. Kenny Clark, for example is 320 pounds. Snacks Harrison, one of the best run stuffers in the league is over 350. Mike Daniels, considered undersized, is right at 300. That means that Jones, who does most of his damage on inside runs, is pretty much running full speed at guys 50% to 75% bigger than him – that matters.
I Don’t Care About That – He Still Needs More Carries!
He’s been getting 12-15 carries the last few weeks and working his way back into midseason form after missing games early due to suspension. I actually like where his workload has come to. I think 15 carries is a good target for him, he doesn’t need a whole bunch of carries a game to wear down a defense and get rolling like Eddie Lacy did.
I know fans think this isn’t enough. “Give Jones 20 carries a game!” they wail. You know who gets 20 carries a game in today’s version of the NFL?
That’s right, as of today, no one in the NFL averages 20 carries a game. Todd Gurley is close at 19.8, you can even round up if you want, but there’s no one else. Ezekiel Elliott gets 18.7 carries a game. Kareem Hunt gets 16.7 carries a game, David Johnson gets 15.8 carries a game, Jordan Howard only get 15.2 carries a game. Heck, Saquon Barkley, the hot young stud back everyone is raving about, on a team with a terrible passing attack, only gets 13.8 carries a game.
These are the best backs in the league, in the most run-centric offenses in the league, and they aren’t getting much more than 15 carries a game, which is exactly what Jones has been working up to over the last few weeks.
So What? McCarthy Is Still Stupid For Not Using Him!
There’s a narrative gaining steam that McCarthy is still misusing Jones, even if he’s getting enough carries. This came up again in the Dolphins game.
Jones had 96 yards in the 1st quarter but only 5 in the second quarter. People seem to want to make that an indictment on Mike McCarthy’s playcalling. The McCarthy-hating narrative is that after Jones did amazing in the first quarter and then McCarthy immediately stopped using him for no good reason.
It sounds so stupid, but is it possible there’s another explanation?
Let’s look deeper (or not, feel free to just stop reading so you can spout more misguided nonsense).
In the first quarter, Jones had four carries that went for 12, 15, 67, and 2 yards.
In the second quarter, Jones started with a 2 yard carry (for a TD). After that, Jamaal Williams came in for one series of relief duty to give Jones a breather. Jones was huffing and puffing between plays – he had 71 yards on the previous drive and the Packers got the ball back 4 minutes later.
Since they were up 14-6, had just got the ball back, and Jones was winded, it seemed like the perfect time to give him a break – his only break of the game.
Jones came back in on the next drive and had 3 carries: the first went for 0 yards, the second went for 3 yards, and the last went for 0 yards.
That was the end of the half.
Jones actually had the exact same number of carries in the second quarter as he did in the first quarter – he just did a lot more with them in the first quarter. It’s possible that after his huge runs in the first quarter, taht he was actually a little tired in the second quarter. Don’t forget: football players, including Aaron Jones, are human and can get tired.
Another possibility it that, after getting gouged for almost 100 yards in the first quarter, that the Dolphins made some defensive adjustments to stop Jones. After all, they aren’t the Washington Generals – they want to win, too.
Whatever the explanation, facts kill the narrative that Mike McCarthy just stopped giving the ball to Jones after he lit it up in the first quarter,
There was a similar story in the second half, where his 7 carries went for 6, 12, 10 (TD), 2, 10, 1, and 3 yards. Good stuff, but nothing like his first quarter, when he was fresh and the Dolphins hadn’t properly adjusted for him.
Jamaal Williams didn’t come in as the primary running back in the second half until the last drive, which was just victory formation.
Jones was in as RB1 for all except one real drive and he played 74% of the offensive snaps. McCarthy isn’t just randomly benching his for long stretches because he’s stupid.
Jones had 15 quality carries that were spread evenly over the entire game. The number of carries he had was in alignment with the number of carries that guys like Jordan Howard and Saquon Barkley get – and those guys are in offenses that don’t have Aaron Rodgers.
Mike McCarthy may have a lot of faults, but misusing Aaron Jones really isn’t one of them. Jones is being used like the other top backs in the league and in a way that limits his very real injury risk while giving him ample opportunities to flourish, which he did against the Dolphins.