Packers’ Matt LaFleur Sends Message on Aaron Jones Setback

Aaron Jones Setback Week 5

Getty Aaron Jones #33 of the Green Bay Packers look on prior to a game against the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field on September 24, 2023 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The Green Bay Packers were forced to make do without star running back Aaron Jones during Monday Night Football against the Las Vegas Raiders, and it remains unclear whether he will return coming out of the bye in Week 6 after he experienced a setback with his hamstring injury leading up to the prime-time bout.

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said in Monday’s postgame that Jones “wanted desperately” to play against the Raiders in Week 5, but he made a collective decision with the team’s medical staff and general manager Brian Gutekunst to hold him out and avoid making the injury worse with a 13-day break between games coming up.

“[We] definitely felt it was in the best interest to not risk it,” LaFleur said Monday night. “He wanted to go, and this guy is battling. … He wanted desperately to be out there today and to help his team, but we have a lot of football in front of us. We’ve got 12 games in front of us, and we’re going to need him for the duration of those.”

Jones has been dealing with a hamstring issue since pulling up lame after his 35-yard touchdown catch against the Chicago Bears in Week 1. While he did return to the lineup on a pitch count in Week 4, LaFleur said Jones “felt a little something” in his hamstring during Saturday’s final practice of the week and, as a result, was not cleared to play.

As to whether Jones will return against the Denver Broncos in Week 7, LaFleur could only say what is likely on the mind of the entire Packers fanbase moving forward.

“I sure as hell hope so,” LaFleur told reporters on Tuesday.

AJ Dillon Bounced Back Against Raiders … Sort Of

The Packers had a lot of things go wrong in their loss to the Raiders, but AJ Dillon was surprisingly one of the few things that went right after struggles early in the season.

Dillon rushed for a season-high 76 yards and scored his first touchdown of the season to help the Packers tie the game against the Raiders at 10 in the third quarter. He was the driving force for their offense on that touchdown drive, rushing six times for 34 yards on the eight-play drive that he capped off with a 4-yard touchdown run. Without Jones, it was exactly what the Packers needed out of him as their lead ball-carrier.

Dillon, however, struggled to sustain that success over the following drives. When the Packers found themselves three yards from the end zone following Christian Watson’s 77-yard reception and the subsequent horsecollar penalty by Marcus Peters, Dillon lost one yard on two carries and left the Packers in an eventual field-goal situation.

Dillon added a few better runs on the next drive — after the Raiders had scored a go-ahead touchdown to begin the fourth quarter — but he continued to only grind out short-yardage gains and was unable to bring any element of breakaway running to the offense.

It would be unfair to Dillon to expect him to be Aaron Jones, but he has rushed just two times for 10 or more yards this season and, according to Pro Football Focus, has still yet to record a single breakaway run despite having 64 carries (17th most) over five games.

Packers Cut RB Patrick Taylor After Loss to Raiders

In other running back news, the Packers made a somewhat surprising deduction from the room on Tuesday when they released Patrick Taylor from the 53-man roster, just one day after they originally signed him up from the practice squad.

Taylor has primarily served as the No. 2 back behind Dillon throughout Jones’ absence and brought a somewhat effective pass-catching element out of the backfield, hauling in five receptions for 28 yards and three first downs on 10 targets. He averaged just 2.8 yards on 11 carries, though, rushing twice for one total yard against the Raiders.

While Taylor could be a candidate to return to the Packers’ practice squad, he has already used up all three of his practice-squad elevations for the season and would need to be signed back to the 53-man roster to play another snap for them in 2023. Without him, the Packers have just two healthy backs between Dillon and rookie Emanuel Wilson.

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