Packers Bolster Backfield With Former 1,000-Yard Rusher

Getty James Robinson evades a tackle from Oren Burks in a game against the Packers at Lambeau Field on November 15, 2020.

In an effort to help boost their ailing running game, the Green Bay Packers are signing veteran tailback James Robinson to their practice squad, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Once one of the league’s most highly touted running backs, the 25-year-old Robinson has become something of a journeyman after a season-ending Achilles tear in 2021. The year prior, however, he strung together one of the most dominant campaigns ever seen by an undrafted rookie running back. His 1,414 yards from scrimmage through 14 games in 2020 is still a league record and he became just the fourth undrafted free agent to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season, joining Dominic Rhodes, LeGarrette Blount and Phillip Lindsay.

According to, Robinson’s 1,070 yards on the ground were just 34 shy of eclipsing the single-season record for an undrafted rookie held by Rhodes.

It’s likely that Robinson takes the place of Patrick Taylor on the Packers’ practice squad. Taylor is a journeyman in his own right — at least between the team’s active roster and practice squad — who had exhausted all three of his game-day elevations for this season already. The Packers promoted him to their 53-man roster prior to their primetime clash with the Las Vegas Raiders but released him the day after without any intention of re-signing him to the practice squad. That decision marked the end of a three-year run in Green Bay for Taylor.

Last October, Robinson was traded from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the New York Jets in exchange for a sixth-round pick. The Jets had just lost rookie tailback Breece Hall to a torn anterior cruciate ligament and were desperately looking to keep their rushing attack afloat. After four games and just 85 yards on the ground, Robinson signed with the New England Patriots this past off-season, but his tenure was short-lived. He was released during mandatory mini-camp due to concerns centered around his health, per Sports Illustrated.

The Packers aren’t facing the kind of dire circumstances that the Jets endured while trying to absorb the loss of Hall, however, their own running game has been a flop so far this season.

Aaron Jones Returned to Practice on Monday

Aaron Jones has been shelved for much of the regular season after sustaining a hamstring injury in the Packers’ September 10 win over the Chicago Bears. While crossing the goal line on a 35-yard touchdown, he pulled up and grabbed the back of his thigh. He’s been back on the field since, but the Packers have been cautious with his management. He logged just 20 offensive snaps in his September 28 return versus the Detroit Lions, but he was shelved once again — even after a 10-day gap between games — against the Raiders.

He was back at practice on Monday, October 16, so there’s optimism that he’ll return to the lineup at full capacity.

If not, though, the Packers will have to continue to lean on the services — or lack thereof — of AJ Dillon. He has yet to crack 200 yards rushing in five games this season despite his 64 attempts, averaging 3.0 yards per carry on the nose. That number is boosted heavily by his remarkably average performance against the Raiders where he rushed 20 times for 76 yards and a score. The team’s faulty rushing attack isn’t the fault of Dillon — the Packers’ offensive line dooms much of the run calls before they even begin.

Aaron Jones, James Robinson, Barry Sanders; Packers’ Putrid Run Blocking Makes it a Moot Point

Expecting Jones to have much success with porous blocking up front is setting him up for failure, but ideally, that’s something that was addressed during the Packers’ bye week. It doesn’t matter if it’s Jones, Dillon, preseason rushing leader Emanuel Wilson or the newly-acquired Robinson — the running game as a whole needs improvement.

“He tilts the field in your favor,” head coach Matt LaFleur said of Jones on Tuesday, October 10. “However, there’s still the expectation that you’ve got to go out there and perform, no matter who’s out there. I never want that to be the narrative — you’ve gotta work around that. That’s football. A lot of teams around the league are dealing with similar situations and you’ve got to find a way.

“That’s all of us. It’s our ability to put together a competent gameplan and it comes down to the guys being able to go out there and execute it. I never want that to be the narrative or the excuse because it really doesn’t matter at the end of the day.”

With Taylor out the door and Jones still evidently hindered by his hamstring injury, Dillon and Wilson were the only two healthy running backs on the Packers’ roster — practice squad included. Assuming Robinson is able to get up to speed with the playbook, there’s a chance that he could be elevated for the team’s October 22 game against the Denver Broncos.