StaTuesday: Is Packers RB Jones a legitimate MVP candidate?
Aaron Jones – MVP?
As a running back, Jones certainly has an uphill climb. Since 2000, only four non-quarterbacks (all running backs) have won the award. More on that later.
As the Packers hit their bye week, Jones has 589 rushing yards on 135 carries with 11 touchdowns. He’s also caught 35 passes for 354 yards with three TDs. His rushing and total touchdowns both lead the NFL (tied with Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey).
So, let’s look at the numbers and see what Jones might have to do to get MVP consideration.
First thing is reach 1,000 yards rushing – it’s a number that stands out and having under 1,000 might sway voters against him. Jones is currently on pace for 942 rushing yards. He’s topped 50 yards just twice over the last five games, and in none of those contests has he had more than 13 carries.
Jones is also on pace for 566 receiving yards. Topping 500 is a nice number, but at the same point since 2000 there’s been at least one player with 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in the same season except for 2012 and 2008 (and often there have been multiple players to do it).
So, those are nice stats to shoot for, but those won’t be that impressive. It’s going to come down to touchdowns.
No running back has had more than 18 rushing touchdowns in a season since LaDainian Tomlinson had 28 in 2006. Only three have had 18 in that span – DeAngelo Williams in 2008, Adrian Peterson in 2009 and LaGarrette Blount in 2016. But getting 19, or better yet 20, would be a nice line on his MVP resume.
Jones also has those three receiving touchdowns, of course. Getting to 20 total TDs would be nice – but that amount has been reached 15 times since 2000. But no running back has had 22+ total TDs since Tomlinson’s 31 in 2006 (wide receiver Randy Moss had 23 in 2007). The Rams’ Todd Gurley had 21 last season in 14 games – so getting well past 21 would be more than helpful.
But can Jones rack up that many scores?
He’s already had four games with 2+ touchdowns, tied with McCaffrey for the most this season.
Among those multiple-touchdown games includes games with four and three rushing TDs (something McCaffrey hadn’t done). Since the AFL-NFL merger, there’s been 45 times a player has had two games of 3+ rushing TDs in a season, including Jones this year.
But if Jones can have another three rushing TD game, he’s be just the eighth player (and 10th time overall) to accomplish that three times in one year, and the first since Tomlinson in 2006.
Of those nine instances, six have occurred since 2000:
— Tomlinson did it five times in 2006 and three in ’05.
— Shaun Alexander, three times in 2005
— Priest Holmes, four times in 2003 and three in ’04.
— Marshall Faulk three times in 2000.
Of those six, three won MVP – Tomlinson in 2006, Alexander in 2005 (keeping in Tomlinson also did it this year) and Faulk in 2000.
The only other running back to win MVP since 2000 was Adrian Peterson in 2012, and all he had to do was rush for over 2,000 yards (he only had 12 rushing TDs and 217 yards and one TD receiving).
The final statistic needed perhaps might be the most important: Wins.
Green Bay is 8-2 and in first place in the NFC North. If Jones is to have any chance of winning MVP, recent history shows the Packers will need to win the division at the very least. Getting 12 or more wins wouldn’t hurt either.
Since Peterson won the MVP, every subsequent winner was on a team which captured the division title and won 11+ games, five won 12+ (Matt Ryan the exception on an 11-5 Atlanta team in 2016) and three were on teams which won 13+.
Of course, all six were also quarterbacks. That might be the toughest thing for Jones to overcome.