The Green Bay Packers are expecting to be without one half of their two-back rushing attack this Sunday as they attempt to lock down a first-round bye in the playoffs against Detroit.
The Packers listed running back Jamaal Williams as doubtful for Sunday’s regular-season finale on their final injury report for Week 17’s regular-season finale at the Lions, while head coach Matt LaFleur said Friday the team will “probably hold him back this week” with a shoulder injury that knocked him out of last week’s win over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football.
Sitting Williams, who has worked as an effective secondary option alongside lead rusher Aaron Jones and leads the team five receiving touchdowns, seems the wise decision after he did not practice once this week. The Packers are counting on his versatility to help their offense when they make their impending return to the NFL playoffs after this week.
The Packers also ruled fullback Danny Vitale (knee) and backup safety Will Redmond (hamstring) doubtful for Sunday’s road game, while wide receiver Jake Kumerow is questionable after being a late addition to the report with an illness.
Playing without both Williams and Vitale would restrict the number of options for the Packers out of the backfield, but Jones has proved this season perfectly capable of handling the rushing load all on his own. When Williams was knocked out on the Packers’ first offensive play of Week 5’s win against the Dallas Cowboys, Jones rampaged his way to a record-setting four rushing touchdowns and 182 total yards, including 75 receiving yards on a season-high seven catches.
Jones also continued his recent hot streak with a career-high 154 rushing yards against the Vikings along with another pair of touchdown runs that gave him an NFL-leading 19 on the season.
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Tyler Ervin, Dexter Williams Could See More Usage
Jones could probably do the job by himself, but his value for the postseason gives plenty of reason for the Packers to mix in a few of their inexperienced backs against a not-so-great opponent rather than give him a heavy workload. That would mean more of Dexter Williams and Tyler Ervin, who have played a combined 13 offensive snaps for the Packers this year.
The Packers have been pretty pleased with Ervin’s contributions since he was signed off the waivers as their new return specialist at the beginning of the month. Not only has he supplied special teams with a much-needed boost, but he also saw some action on offense with a 6-yard reception among his seven offensive snaps against the Vikings.
The rookie Williams seems more likely to slide in as the No. 2 rusher, though, with Ervin still primarily needed for his return duties. He has been active for just three games this season and only carried the ball three times for two yards in garbage time during Week 7’s blowout win over the Oakland Raiders, but some real responsibility this Sunday could serve as his first real NFL opportunity.
At the same time, Jones needs just 16 more rushing yards this season to reach 1,000 for the first time in his three-year career. Should get off to the races quickly, there may be no holding him back.