The 28-year-old — arguably the offense’s engine — was once again a non-participant in practice on September 20 due to a hamstring injury. He took part in the stretching period of practice but ventured into the Don Hutson Center, the Packers’ indoor practice facility, while the rest of the team continued preparations for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.
“I think he’s coming along well, but we’ll see,” said head coach Matt LaFleur after practice.
Jones sustained the injury on a 35-yard touchdown reception in the season-opening throttling of the Chicago Bears on September 10. He pulled up and reached back for his hamstring as he crossed the goal line for a touchdown that would separate the Packers by three scores.
His absence isn’t just felt on the ground, but the 86 receiving yards Jones tallied against the Bears still leads the team through two weeks. In addition to his 35-yard catch, Jones caught a screen pass before scampering up the sideline for a 51-yard gain.
Matt LaFleur: ‘Everybody Needs to Be Better’
AJ Dillon led the way with 15 carries, but he accumulated just 55 yards. For the season, he’s rushed 28 times for 74 yards, averaging a ghastly 2.6 yards per carry. The former second-round pick has been trending downward as he continues to find himself in the very slump that’s plagued him dating back to last season.
His backups, Emanuel Wilson and Patrick Taylor, weren’t much better. They combined for 6 yards on four carries. The Packers may have expected more out of Wilson — even with such a small sample size — considering he was the league’s rushing leader during the preseason, but struggles against the Falcons don’t tell the entire story.
“That’s an area where it’s not just the run blocking,” said LaFleur. “I would say it’s really all 11. Making sure that our backs are on track with their aiming points, wideouts are doing their part in the run game, quarterback doing his part whether it’s faking the keeper or whatever it may be.
“There’s a lot of — shoot, as a play-caller — giving our guys opportunities to have productive runs. I mean, we ran a toss into a nickel pressure off the edge and we lose 4 yards. I can’t fault anybody else other than myself on that. I would say, collectively, everybody needs to be better.”
In Other Packers News…
For the second consecutive practice dating back to last week, wide receiver Christian Watson was a limited participant. His regular-season debut could be on the horizon as he, like Jones, is working his way back from a hamstring injury. For the first time as the Packers’ starting quarterback, Jordan Love could have a full complement of wideouts at his disposal against the Saints.
Outside linebacker and No. 13 overall pick Lukas Van Ness practiced in a limited fashion with a elbow injury. The injury occurred against the Falcons, but the Packers’ training staff wrapped a brace around it and he was given the green light to re-enter the game.
After not playing against the Falcons due to swelling in his knee, David Bakhtiari didn’t practice on Wednesday either. The Packers may once again be tasked with finding a replacement for him at left tackle this week; Rasheed Walker, a seventh-round pick from last spring, got the start in Bakhtiari’s place versus the Falcons.