In his second NFL season, he led the league with a 5.47-yards-per-carry average.
Yet in 12 games, he carried only 133 times — an average of just 11 per game.
He missed the first two games of the season because of suspension and the last two because of a knee injury.
But in between, his effectiveness never seemed to match up with his opportunities. Then again, how could it in an offense that dropped back to pass a league-high 71.5 percent of the time?
Enter new coach Matt LaFleur, whose commitment to the run game is rooted in the Sean McVay-Kyle Shanahan system that he worked in during his time as an assistant coach with the Redskins, Falcons and Rams. It was on display last season in Tennessee, where as the Titans’ playcaller, he coordinated the NFL’s No. 7 rushing game.
“He’s going to marry the run and the pass game up,” Jones said after Wednesday’s OTA practice. “The run is going to be heavy — not heavy, but we’re going to rely on the run.”
Jones realized that not only from his first look at LaFleur’s playbook but also based on what he knows about McVay and Shanahan as playcallers.
So he set out to be ready for it. That meant remaking a body that, as Aaron Rodgers joked, had “a little bit of a belly.” And one that suffered three knee injuries — all MCL sprains — in his first two pro seasons.
“I like to tease Aaron Jones from time to time,” Rodgers said earlier this offseason. “He’s the most athletic, fast guy with a little bit of a belly. He’s pretty lean this year.”
According to Jones, he cut his body fat in half. He said he’s down to 5.3 percent from more than 11 last season all while maintaining his playing weight of 205 pounds. To do it, he cut out potato chips, cookies and candy.
The hardest part, he said, was giving up gummy bears, Twizzlers and Skittles.
“I was big into candy,” Jones said. “I’ll turn and see candy and I’m like, ‘Man, I want that.’ But I know how I feel in my body so that’s a big thing.
“I’ve been eating very clean. Chicken, rice, sweet potatoes, steak, quinoa, things like that. Just very clean.”
“Yeah, I do like quinoa,” he said, noting that he dabbled in it when he came out of college and started training for the combine.
“It was on my meal plan,” Jones said. “I was like, ‘What’s quinoa?’ And they had to explain it to me. I started liking it then. I always liked good food. It was just hard to put the candy down. That was the hardest part.”
He believes he’s stronger and faster already and hopes it improves his durability after failing to finish either of his first two seasons.
“In OTAs somebody puts their arm out there and running through it, it won’t turn my body or torque my body like it used to,” Jones said. “I just feel stronger in the legs.”
Jones appears to be a good fit for LaFleur’s offense, which is predicated on the outside zone running play and using backs as receivers.
“I feel like I am,” Jones said. “We’ve run outside zone in previous years here, so that’s what we’re running and I feel good in this scheme. It’s a lot of things I’ve seen before, so it’s nothing new to me. We take a look on film and see how it’s worked in other systems, so it just gets me very excited.”
Jones’ backfield mate, fellow third-year pro Jamaal Williams, also believes the new offense can work for him even if most see Jones as the better fit. Williams said he got leaner, although he still weighs about 218 pounds, in order to “see my more agile side.”
“It’s good for me because it finally shows I can get the ball in the open field, I can run some routes, run some choice routes, be in the ‘1’ position, run some little slants,” Williams said. “It really just shows that I can do more than just run the ball. I can catch it. Everybody knows I can block, but it’s going to emphasize my other skills.”