GREEN BAY – Jamaal Williams knew the second half of Thursday night’s preseason finale was going to belong to the Packers’ rookie running backs.
When given the opportunity, Williams and fellow rookie draft picks Aaron Jones and Devante Mays didn’t disappoint.
The trio played a heavy hand in the Packers rushing for 105 yards on 23 carries in the second half to help put away the Los Angeles Rams 24-10 in front of 74,102 at Lambeau Field.
Williams, Jones and Mays combined for 140 of the Packers’ 242 total yards of offense. A bulk of that production came in the final two quarters in which Green Bay dominated time of possession (20:10-9:50) after trailing in the category (17:08-12:52) in the first half.
“They said we were going to run the ball and I think we did a great job,” said Williams, who rushed for 31 yards on 11 carries. “I just think we did the best we could. It was the last game and just trying to make sure we all have a chance of making the team and being here on Monday.”
Williams and his former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill helped engineer a 17-play, 60-yard drive at the start of the third quarter that ate more than 11 minutes off the clock.
The Packers gave the ball to Williams on the first five plays of the series, with nine of his 11 total carries coming on that possession. While the offense wasn’t able to punch the ball in for a touchdown, his production helped set up Mason Crosby’s 28-yard field goal, which extended Green Bay’s lead to 17-3.
Williams also showcased some of his pass-blocking ability on the first play of the offense’s second series of the game, when he identified a free blitzer to allow backup quarter Brett Hundley to get the ball out in time.
“Overall, I showed everything I can do – blocking, running the ball,” Williams said. “We have to make sure No. 12 is always protected. That’s probably the No. 1 rule about being a running back. He’s the one who gives us the ball, so we have to make sure he’s good.”
The spotlight then shined on Jones on the Packers’ next drive. A fifth-round pick out of UTEP, Jones broke free on a 24-yard gain up the middle to the Los Angeles 20 after following a block from center Justin McCray to convert on second-and-23.
Three plays later, Hill fired a 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Aaron Peck to push the Packers’ lead to 24-3. Jones also scored in the first half on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Brett Hundley.
“I feel like I did everything in my power to show I belong,” said Jones, who led Green Bay in rushing this preseason with 19 carries for 105 yards (5.5 yards per carry). “I felt comfortable with what I did. I know there’s more stuff I could’ve done. At the end of the day, I feel like I did what I had to do.”
Mays, a seventh-round pick out of Utah State, contributed four carries for 18 yards on the Packers’ 17-play series to open the third quarter, but he also showed his ability as a pass-catcher early on.
The 5-foot-10, 230-pounder wound up leading Green Bay in receiving Thursday night after catching two passes for 36 yards on the Packers’ first scoring drive in the opening quarter, culminating in a Hundley 13-yard touchdown run.
Mays didn’t catch the ball much at Utah State. In fact, his five catches for 56 yards in four preseason games with the Packers were more than the two for 17 yards he had in two years at Utah State.
“I feel pretty good in the open field. That’s what I do,” Mays said. “You’ve got to make guys miss. I feel comfortable running between the tackles or outside; it doesn’t really matter.”
All told, the Packers finished with 132 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries – nearly doubling the Rams’ 67 rushing yards on 24 attempts.
The Packers face several tough calls on the eve of Saturday’s final reduction to 53 players, especially at running back where they return Ty Montgomery plus fullbacks Aaron Ripkowski and Joe Kerridge from last year’s backfield.
Williams, Jones and Mays hope they did enough to convince the Packers’ coaching staff and personnel department of their worth over the last five weeks.
With the preseason now over, however, the trio understands all it can do now is anxiously await its fate.
“I’ll still be up looking at my phone,” said Jones, laughing. “I’m going to get a little sleep, though.”
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