In Blocking the Big Dogs, No Puppies Allowed
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Detroit Lions had just scored to open the fourth quarter and were one third-down stop away from getting back into Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers.
On third-and-4 from the 32, the Lions’ defense threatened a blitz. It would be up to running back Aaron Jones, all 208 pounds of him, to stop 245-pound linebacker Jarrad Davis.
“I didn’t think twice about it,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on Wednesday.
It hasn’t always been that way.
To be sure, Rodgers has had rock-solid pass protectors in the backfield for most of his career. Brandon Jackson was short but stout. Eddie Lacy was a brick wall. John Kuhn helped win the NFC North in 2013 when his diving block on Julius Peppers allowed Rodgers to fire the game-winning touchdown pass to Randall Cobb. But there have been some exceptions. And let’s say Rodgers didn’t enjoy quite the same comfort level as Jones provided on that big third down.
“It’s a little scary” when the back can’t be trusted, Rodgers said.
It’s a little scary to be a running back, too.
Davis, based on listed weights, had a 37-pound advantage on Jones. Plus, he had about a 10-yard running start. But Jones didn’t back down.
“Have the mentality that you’re bigger than him, and just go in there and don’t be scared,” said fellow running back Jamaal Williams, one of the best pass-protecting backs in the NFL.
The conversation had Williams fired up. He tried his hardest to explain in G-rated terms. (See video for his full and highly entertaining answer.)
“You can’t be a little b-,” he said, cutting himself off. “How I can I say this? You can’t be a little puppy playing with big dogs. You’ve got to know that you’re a big dog. Just go in there, no matter how much you weigh. It’s really about your will. … It’s really just a mentality. You’ve got to run through him. You’ve got to know you want to block him, and that’s what Aaron’s got. No matter how small he is, no matter who’s going through the hole or who he’s got to block, he’s going to go in there and block him, because he knows he can.”
Jones got rocked backward at the collision. Albert Einstein might have written an equation to explain. But he got the job done, as he typically does. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones allowed two sacks in 34 pass-protecting snaps as a rookie in 2017. In 2018, 2019 and the start of 2020, Jones has allowed one sack in 104 pass-protecting snaps.
“I take a lot of pride holding up our quarterback,” Jones said after the game. “I mean, he still got knocked down, so I wasn’t extremely happy with it, but I was happy he was able to get the ball out and completed. That’s what it has to be. You have to take pride in protecting your quarterback. It’s a mentality. I don’t want anybody hitting him or getting free shots on him. If we keep 12 playing, it’s going to be a tough time for any defense. Coming in, we know we have to protect our quarterback and what he means to this team. So, I’m working, working, working and I’m going to continue to work on it so I can help our team.”
Officially, Davis was given a quarterback hit. Also officially, Rodgers had time to hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 41-yards. The first down helped set up the clinching touchdown in a 42-21 romp.
“Some of the guys that we got, I trust them a lot,” Rodgers said. “Jamaal has been really good from the start. I think he’s just got such a great base. For Jonesy, it’s something he’s worked on to become a three-down complete back. I didn’t think twice about it. I heard the hit for sure. It was a loud one. I’m proud of Jonesy and it just shows with attention to detail and just the discipline that he has, the growth in his own game to be an elite back.”