This will be an in-depth look at the Green Bay Packers’ roster and where they need to upgrade now that we are on to the 2021 season.
The season is over. The Green Bay Packers came up short yet again in their quest to bring home the franchise’s 14th world championship.
Now that the season is over, the roster is going to undergo some construction. Mike McCarthy used to always say that you can expect the roster turnover to come in around 25 percent.
With a potential cap shrinkage and the Packers looking to take the next step, there’s a chance that number is higher.
This series will look into what the Packers currently have, and where they need to upgrade from. That series starts with the game’s most important position, quarterback.
We’re going to break them down into four categories.
Last week we looked at quarterbacks, this week let’s take a look at the guys that line up behind them.
Aaron Jones – Perhaps the biggest remaining free agent for the Packers this coming offseason. Aaron Jones has been the Packers’ best running back since the day he was drafted. It took a while for that to come to fruition on the field, but it remains true.
Jones has been in contract discussions with the Packers since the combine. They’ve been eventful.
At one point it felt like something that was going to happen. Then the Packers signed Kenny Clark and David Bakhtiari.
Jones subsequently fired his agent and hired Drew Rosenhaus. From the day Rosenhaus was hired, it felt like Jones was a goner.
Jones is in an odd situation. He’s clearly Green Bay’s most explosive running back, but playing a position that is traditionally devalued in the modern NFL.
Packer Report’s Mark Eckel spoke with a current NFL scout about Jones, and this is what he had to say.
“They may lose him and it would be a big mistake, not as much for the team but for him,’’ the scout said. “He’s in a perfect spot with Aaron Rodgers and that offense. He’s got a great situation there. He’s not really a workhorse type back, so having those other guys there are good for him, too”
That is where I kind of stand with Jones as well. He’s been very productive. He has a nose for the endzone as evidenced by his 23 touchdowns a season ago.
That being said, the Packers clearly look at Jones a certain way. He rarely carries the ball 20 times a game. His only game of 20 or more carries was a late-season 24-16 win over Carolina.
Jones has been seeking a contract close to or on par with the ones recently signed by New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara and Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook.
While Jones’ numbers may look similar to theirs, he is an inferior player to both of those guys. Jones is unable to carry the full load of a feature running back.
I know that NFL teams don’t typically have backs like that, but if you’re going to pay top dollar for someone, you want him to be able to withstand carrying the full load.
The Packers clearly limited him during his two seasons with Matt LaFleur, and it could be because they know his body would not hold up. This is not a contract the Packers should be looking to sign unless it’s a very team-friendly type of deal.
Verdict – Good player
Jamaal Williams –
The star of Game on Wisconsin’s first season. Williams has been just about everything you could have hoped for when the Packers selected him in the fourth round. He’s a big part of what they do on their offense and was even described as the heartbeat of the team in a story by The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman.
Williams is an excellent player in his role. He’s a better running version of Brandon Jackson. He’s the most natural passing game player the Packers have in their running back room. He’s an excellent pass blocker and does well when he gets carries.
One of the best descriptions I have heard of Williams is that he’s like a chainsaw with legs when he runs.
Like Jones, Williams is also set to become a free agent when the new league year begins.
Our own Jimmy Christensen has reported that the Packers have been in contract negotiations with him. This seems like a deal they could find a way to get done. He’s going to be a cheaper option than Jones and gives them a veteran next to AJ Dillon if he’s not ready to handle the load full time.
He’s a great role player and appears to be ok with being just that.
Eli Berkovits has also reported that former Wisconsin Badger James White could be interested in coming to Green Bay. That would be a good deal if he comes significantly cheaper.
For all the fanfare that White would receive as a former Badger, Williams is the better player.
Verdict: Good player
AJ Dillon – Dillon was easily the most popular Packers’ rookie in training camp. It makes sense. He was the player most likely to score touchdowns.
The picture that surfaced in camp of his quads went viral, and the legend only grew from there.
During the season, however, Dillon was stuck behind two good, productive runners. That led to him being glued to the bench for the majority of his rookie season.
A bout with COVID-19 did not help those matters.
By the end of the season, however, Dillon was starting to make his mark. His biggest performance came against the Tennessee Titans where he ran for more than 100 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Here lies 92. He was a good man. He was on the tracks when the train came through. pic.twitter.com/nsYDzXuhxW
— Ross Uglem (@RossUglem) December 28, 2020
Dillon is a tough, powerful runner that could change the identity of this Packers team. A physical running back almost always dispels the “soft” label that gets thrown around far too often in Green Bay.
That said – at this point, there’s not enough data to support Dillon being anything more than a prospect.
Verdict – Prospect
Patrick Taylor –
Taylor has become a bit of the flavor of the month among Packers’ Twitter. He did show some ability in college as a pass-catcher. The Packers thought enough of him to keep him throughout the season even though he was injured for a vast majority of it.
There is a chance that Taylor will have an opportunity to impress in training camp, but I do think the Packers may add another back or two to this stable regardless of what happens with Jones and Williams.
If one of those guys are brought back, Taylor’s odds become even longer to make the 2021 team.
Verdict – Replaceable
Dexter Williams – Williams was a bit of a darling during his first training camp, but he feels like someone that found his way into Matt LaFleur’s doghouse and may never find his way out.
The shining example of this was during his rookie season where Williams was on the active roster. Jamaal Williams was going to miss a game against the Dallas Cowboys with a concussion.
Instead of having Dexter Williams active, the team promoted Tra Carson off of the practice squad.
I think if you got some truth serum put into both LaFleur and Gutekunst, you would get some telling answers as to how that roster spot was given to Williams out of camp instead of Carson.
Williams may make it to camp, but it would be very surprising if he became a contributor.
Mike Weber – Weber never saw any game action during the season. He has soft hands and the ability to make plays in the passing game, but is considered a long shot at best to become a contributor.