The Green Bay Packers are hoping to add another body to their rushing rotation next season to complement their current one-two punch.
Packers head coach Matt LaFleur told reporters Tuesday during the NFL Scouting Combine his team will continue to depend on breakout star Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams out of the backfield for the 2020 season, but he also wants to insert a third option into the rotation to split carries with the two backs who helmed the rushing attack last season.
“We’re going to need not only those two guys, but I do think we’re going to need a third guy to put into that mix moving forward,” LaFleur said.
The Packers put an emphasis on splitting reps between Jones and Williams throughout the 2019 season even as Jones — who finished with an NFL-leading 19 touchdowns — showcased all the skills necessary for a primary running back. Jones still managed to steal most of the spotlight as his breakout season saw him eclipse 1,000 rushing yards, but Williams nearly crossed the 500-yard mark with a little less than half as many carries.
Both rushers were also heavily featured in the passing game with Jones (49) and Williams (39) catching more passes than anyone else on the roster aside from star wideout Davante Adams.
LaFleur didn’t concede which players the Packers are eyeing to take on more responsibility during the 2020 season, but here are a few possible options who could assume the role of RB3 next season.
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Tyler Ervin, RB
The most obvious choice for more playing time in 2020, Ervin joined the Packers in early December and was quickly able to revitalize their return game on special teams. He averaged 9.6 yards on 11 punt returns and 26.7 yards on six kick returns, while the Packers also recognized his unique skill set as being one that could have a bigger role in their offense. Right now, the biggest obstacle for Ervin is simply his pending status as a free agent; though, the Packers are certainly open to re-signing him.
“Tyler did a great job, not only from the return aspect,” LaFleur said Tuesday. “I feel like that’s where our special teams started to take a turn for the better is when we picked him up. And he’s a versatile guy and we were able to play him more and more as the season progressed. If I have my way, yeah, I’d love to have him back.”
Dexter Williams, RB
The Packers took a low-risk chance on the former Notre Dame product in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft but never gave him much of a chance to thrive during the regular season behind their main rushing duo. After Williams made the 53-man roster out of training camp, he spent the majority of his rookie season as a healthy scratch with just four games of action. He played just 10 total snaps on offense and took five carries for 11 yards, but a deeper commitment to giving him opportunities could see him take his game to the next level.
Williams proved he could run during his senior season with the Irish, gaining 995 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns out of the backfield. He also flashed his potential as a pass-catcher with 16 catches for 133 yards and another touchdown, which would fit the multi-purpose mold of what LaFleur and his staff demand from their running backs.
Elijah Wellman, FB
A sleeper to be sure, Wellman was one of the few players the Packers inked to a futures contract that was not a member of last year’s roster. He spent portions of the past two offseasons with the Washington Redskins after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2018, but LaFleur’s interest in deploying a fullback in his Packers offense could grant him a real opportunity.
The Packers never got much out of fullback Danny Vitale during the 2019 season, some of which might have been related to problems with his knee. He underwent a minor procedure on his right knee after missing the Packers’ regular-season finale and both postseason games, but his primary function throughout the year had been as a blocker. Vitale will become a free agent next month along with fullback Malcolm Johnson — who missed the entire season with an injury — and neither of them figure to be top candidates for retention, which could clear a path for Wellman to earn his keep.