GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Not long before Packers RB Aaron Jones made his first NFL start on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, Ty Montgomery, the injured running back Jones was replacing, offered the rookie a piece of advice.
As Jones relayed it, Montgomery told him that whatever he did -- right or wrong -- do it fast.
“If you’re going to make a mistake, make it fast,” Jones said, recalling Montgomery’s words. “That will make up for it.”
Jones didn’t make many mistakes among his 19 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown -- the best day by a Green Bay Packers rookie running back since Eddie Lacy in 2013. But there was one that stuck in Jones’ mind: his second-quarter 9-yard catch along the left sideline -- the difficult, diving grab that was upheld by a replay review and prompted analyst Troy Aikman to say on the Fox broadcast, “That would’ve been a great catch if that was Jordy Nelson.”
Jones ran the wrong route.
“I made up for it by playing fast,” he said.
He was supposed to run a “sneak” route, a move that would have him break toward the middle of the field. Instead, he ran something toward the sideline that probably couldn’t be found on any route tree. But he got open, and QB Aaron Rodgers found him as he rolled toward Jones’ side of the field.
“I couldn’t even tell you what route I ran,” Jones said. “I saw Aaron start scrambling, and that’s when we go to our scramble rules, so I got that part right but not the original part.”
Aaron Jones a solid pickup until Montgomery returns
Tim Hasselbeck believes that Packers RB Aaron Jones will continue to contribute in fantasy until Ty Montgomery comes back from his injury.
Throughout the game, Montgomery could be seen on the sideline talking with Jones. If they worked that well together when only one of them was available, imagine the kind of combination they could have when Montgomery returns from broken ribs. The power running of Montgomery combined with the speed and shiftiness of the smaller Jones (5-foot-9, 208 pounds) could give coach Mike McCarthy the one-two punch he has long talked about in his backfield.
Whatever happens, McCarthy now has options at running back, from Montgomery to Jones to rookie Jamaal Williams. And no one even knows yet what the third rookie, Devante Mays, can do since he hasn’t gotten the ball yet.
“I hope I have a one-four punch,” McCarthy said. “That's why we drafted three running backs. But it takes time. It's a young man's league, I get it. Aaron had an opportunity -- man, he cashed in. I'm proud of him. He's earned the right to have more opportunities and move forward, and that's not lost in how we plan and we go [forward].
“But this is not a one-man show. It's going to take them all, so I want to be able to make hard decisions on who's going to be on the 46 there. That's what this league is all about. Unfortunately, we haven't had that yet this year. But that's what good football teams do. That's why everybody has to get ready.”
Even if Montgomery returns for Sunday’s game at Minnesota, McCarthy will have a hard time keeping Jones off the field. But given the rookie fifth-round pick’s production, perhaps the Packers can wait a little longer to bring back Montgomery. The more time broken ribs get to heal, the better.
“As long as I've been in this league, if a player is ready to play, he plays,” McCarthy said. “When you start muddying the water on that decision, now you're getting into different scenarios, and I don't think that's the best thing for your football team. Because at the end of the day, we're going to work to beat the Vikings.
"Doing this and projecting that, does it happen? Absolutely, I'm sure it does. Is it part of the medical staff to do that? Absolutely not. The medical staff is supposed to get the players ready to play, and to do everything they can and never jeopardize their health, but it's to get them ready to play. That's just the way we've always gone about it … and that's why we have a process, and when those guys clear them and there's another evaluation step that you go through … then that's how you figure out your active list.”
Nevertheless, Jones in one-and-a-half games has more rushing yards (174 on 32 carries for a 5.4-yard average) than Montgomery (152 yards on 46 carries for a 3.3-yard average) did before he broke his ribs on the opening drive in Week 4.
For a small back, Jones also showed some tackle-breaking ability, thanks to his quickness. His average of 2.28 yards per carry after contact, according to ESPN Stats & Information, ranks eighth among running backs this season. Montgomery ranks 25th at 1.83.
“It’s something to build on because, obviously, we still want to continue to improve and grow and get better, but some of the things he was able to do were outstanding,” Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said. “You talk about the fact that he was able to break tackles, make people miss, that’s something else that stood out.”