With a short week looming, the Green Bay Packers all of a sudden found themselves short-handed at the running back position on Sunday following injuries to Aaron Jones and Emanuel Wilson, leaving AJ Dillon as the lone back.
“That’s a great question,” said Matt LaFleur after Sunday’s game when asked how the Packers would address the position on a short week. “We’ll have a solution for it. I trust Gutey (Brian Gutekunst) and I know he and his staff are on it and we’ll have a solution for that. But it’s another great challenge.”
The solution, as first reported by Packer Central’s Bill Huber, was to sign James Robinson. ESPN’s Rob Demovsky would later add that Robinson was signed to the practice squad. As a result of the addition, a corresponding cut will have to follow.
After being signed to the practice squad in mid-October, Robinson was released by Green Bay on Nov. 7 to make room for running back Ellis Merriweather, who the team signed in his place.
Robinson is still just 25 years old but has been unable to gain traction since returning from an Achilles injury he suffered in 2021. Upon his return in 2022, Robinson was traded from Jacksonville to the New York Jets. All together, he averaged just 3.9 yards per rush on 110 attempts with 11 catches and five total touchdowns. He was released by the Jets this past spring and spent some time with the New York Giants before originally joining the Packers practice squad.
Prior to this injury, Robinson burst onto the scene with the Jaguars as an undrafted rookie out of Illinois State in 2020. As a dual-threat running back that season, Robinson rushed for over 1,000 yards at 4.5 yards per attempt. In the passing game, he caught 49 of the 56 passes thrown his way at 7.0 yards per catch and had 10 total touchdowns. Before suffering that Achilles injury in 2021, Robinson was again closing in on 1,000 yards at a 4.7-yard clip.
“I can see why this guy rushed for 1,000 yards as a rookie,” position coach Ben Sirmans said. “You can see he’s got good vision, he’s got good instincts, he’s patient. His ability to find a crease, because he moves just fast enough to let things develop in front of him, and then he can interpret what he sees and, bam, he’s hitting it. I’ve been pretty pleased with him. I totally feel confident that, if he’s got to go in the game, he would give us some production based off of what I’ve seen so far without being live.”
With Robinson and Merriweather on the practice squad, the Packers could choose to utilize their two game day elevations on each of these players. That way they won’t have to officially add anyone to the 53-man roster, which would result in a cut having to be made as well in order to make room.
Dillon is going to be the feature back, of course, and handle a lot of the workload in Detroit. How the Packers go about divvying up playing time between Robinson and possibly Merriweather remains to be seen, although I would guess that Robinson — given his experience — will the No. 2 running back option for Green Bay.
Against a fierce Lions’ pass rush that bullied the Packers offensive line in Week 4, pressuring Love on nearly 50 percent of his dropbacks, having a run game to lean on for Green Bay will be a must this time around if the offense is going to find success. A capable rushing attack can help open up opportunities in the passing game and help keep the offense out of predictable second and third-and-long situations.
Wilson left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury and Jones a knee injury. The timetable for each player’s potential return is unknown at this time, but we did receive some good news in regards to Jones after the game, with LaFleur saying that he did not anticipate it being a long-term injury.
“I don’t think it’s long term,” said LaFleur post-game. “It certainly looked bad, and I was really concerned just seeing it live. I didn’t see a replay or anything, but seeing it live did not look good. He’s in good spirits in there and hopefully it’s just a short-term deal.”