GREEN BAY, Wis. – Desperate times call for desperate measures. And the Green Bay Packers are desperate at running back after starter Aaron Jones and rookie Emanuel Wilson were carted off the field in a span of seven plays against the Chargers.
The Packers won 23-20 with AJ Dillon as the only man in the backfield. With a short turnaround to Thursday’s game at the Detroit Lions, the Packers need to find a running back capable of stepping into the offense in an instant.
“We’ll have a solution for it, I promise you. We’ll have a solution,” coach Matt LaFleur said.
Fortunately, these five players are obvious options.
Patrick Taylor signed with the Packers after going undrafted in 2020. After sitting out his rookie season to get over a foot injury sustained while at Memphis, Taylor played in nine games in 2021 and 14 games in 2022.
The Packers kept Wilson over Taylor during this year’s roster cuts, but Taylor stuck on the practice squad as the unofficial No. 3 back. He was elevated from the practice squad for three of the first four games, then signed to the 53-man roster for Week 5 at the Raiders. He was released after that game and landed on New England’s practice squad.
Because he’s on a practice squad, the Packers would have to sign him to their 53-man roster.
Taylor, who has not played for the Patriots, is a do-it-all running back capable of running, catching and protecting. With three-plus years in Green Bay and 27 games under his belt, he certainly knows the offense and what to expect. His best professional game – 11 carries, 53 yards and his only career touchdown – came at Detroit in the 2021 finale.
Tyler Goodson went undrafted in 2022 and was released with an injury settlement during training camp this summer. While he’s spent the last three months on the Colts’ practice squad, he’d return to Green Bay with a firm grasp of the offense.
As is the case with Taylor, the Packers would have to sign Goodson to their 53-man roster.
Undersized but with some explosiveness and pass-catching skills, Goodson would provide a change-of-pace option to the thundering Dillon. He has not played in a regular-season game, though.
After releasing Taylor following the Las Vegas game, the Packers opted to sign veteran James Robinson to the practice squad instead.
An undrafted free agent in 2020, Robinson rushed for 1,070 yards as a rookie. With 49 catches, his 1,414 total yards were the most in NFL history by an undrafted rookie running back as he earned All-Rookie honors.
However, his 2021 season ended with a torn Achilles and he’s never been the same player. At least he’d know the offense and has a lot of high-level experience.
“I can see why this guy rushed for 1,000 yards as a rookie,” running backs 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.”
After three weeks, the Packers released Robinson in favor of the next player on this list.
The Packers signed Merriweather to the practice squad on Nov. 6. He went undrafted and unsigned this year; he participated in the Packers’ rookie camp as a tryout player but was not signed.
Merriweather spent training camp with the Saints. While he’s never played in a game, he’s already in Green Bay and ready to dive into the game plan. The Packers could simply elevate him to the gameday roster rather than signing him to the 53.
“I really want to be an extra wide receiver,” Merriweather said after the draft. “I’m so big, people don’t even think about putting me as a wide receiver. [My catching] is honestly my best ability.”
The Packers used a seventh-round pick in this year’s draft on Lew Nichols, who led the nation in combined rushing and receiving yardage at Central Michigan in 2021. Nichols never stood out on the practice field, though, and was released at the end of training camp. The Packers opted to keep Taylor on the practice squad instead of Nichols.
Nichols has spent the past month on the Eagles’ practice squad, so he’s ready to go physically. He’d return to Green Bay with a strong foundation in the offense.
Like Taylor and Goodson, the Packers would have to sign Nichols to the 53.