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Next Gen Stats: Jones Could Have Defenses Thinking Inside the Box

Zebra Technologies, whose RFID technology powers the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, had a telling stat about Aaron Jones’ early success.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – With 186 rushing yards and a 9.1-yard average that ranks second among running backs, defenses might have to start dedicating an extra defender to take away Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones.

Bring it on, Aaron Rodgers said.

“I hope so. Yeah, I’d love to see some one-high stuff,” Rodgers said on Wednesday. “The league has been so much two-high the last few years. I’d love to see some one-high. So, that’d be great.”

With one deep safety, defenses have an extra defender in the box to take away the run. That was the defense du jour of a few years ago. Now, most teams – the Packers included – play two deep safeties to take away the big-play passing game. That, however, leaves them a bit vulnerable against the run.

Against the Chicago Bears on Sunday night, Jones ran outside the tackles on 12 of his 15 carries, according to Zebra Technologies, whose RFID technology powers the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Jones gained 116 yards on those runs, a clip of 9.7 yards per carry.

Of note, according to Zebra, Jones hasn’t faced a stacked box all season. (A stacked box is defined as eight-plus defenders in the box.)

So, while defenses know the Packers want to get the ball to Jones – coach Matt LaFleur couldn’t have made that more clear last week – they’ve had no answers from a manpower perspective.

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“It says a lot about our offense,” Jones said after the game. “You know what’s coming, but you have to stop it. That’s not easy to do. I just say kudos to our whole offensive unit and our whole team for responding and bouncing back from last week.”

If Jones keeps averaging close to a first down every time he’s handed the ball, defensive coordinators might have to take a bold next step. Rodgers is the four-time MVP and one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Forcing the ball into his hands might seem like a suicide mission. But, if Jones and AJ Dillon stay hot, defensive coordinators might have to bet that their cornerbacks can win one-on-one against Green Bay’s remodeled receiver corps.

“There’s a few times over the years” that’s happened, Rodgers said. “You know, ’15 and ’18 were a couple years where we saw a little more one-high. It was nice when the Seattle trend was going on and six, seven teams were running that defense because that’s all one-high. It was very, very little two-high. Now, it’s this other style of defense from the Rams and it’s a lot of two-high.

“You’re seeing the run game come back, the fullback position might make a resurgence. Who’s going to be the next John Kuhn of the world? We’ll see.”

Through two games, Jones is tied for 27th with 20 rushing attempts. His six runs of 10-plus yards, including four of 15-plus yards, are only one off the league lead. Jones (10) and Dillon (9) have combined for 19 of Green Bay’s 23 rushing first downs. Only Philadelphia (24) has more.

If that prolific production continues, the Packers might start seeing an extra defender entering the box.

“One-high shouldn’t take you out of running the football,” Rodgers said. “There’s certain plays where you might have to leave a corner or leave the back-side guy unblocked. That’s just part of it. It doesn’t stop us from running the football. It just changes some of the schematics.”