Containing Jones a key

Lions running back rambled past Packers in last meeting

Kevin Jones was the most productive running back in the second half of the 2004 NFL season. Nobody knows that better than the Green Bay Packers.

Jones nearly single-handedly helped the Lions upend the Packers in Lambeau Field when the two teams met last Dec. 12, 2004. Jones rushed for a Lions single-game rookie record of 156 yards on 33 attempts. Detroit held a 13-0 halftime lead before the Packers rallied for a 16-13 victory.

Jones finished with 1,133 yards and five touchdowns, giving the Lions the big-play threat they had lacked at RB after the retirement of Barry Sanders in 1999. Jones rushed for 825 yards in the final seven games of the 2004 season, giving him the strongest finish of all the backs in the league.

The Packers, who ranked 14th against the rush in the NFL last year, will have their hands full with Jones in the season opener this Sunday at Ford Field. Knowing that the Lions piled up 193 yards rushing in their meeting last Dec. 12, the Packers expect to see plenty of Jones early and often.

"Kevin Jones is an excellent runner," said Packers coach Mike Sherman. "He has great size and power, but he also has the ability to make great cuts against the grain and cut the ball back. If you're not gap efficient, or gap deficient, you're going to give up big runs against him.

"I think he's an excellent running back. I would assume that they want to pound the football. … Their philosophy is to hammer the runs and hope that we bring a safety down, which isn't in our nature necessarily."

Jones, whom the Lions traded up to obtain with the 30th overall pick of the 2004 NFL draft, sustained a high-ankle sprain early last season. But the former Virginia Tech star bounced back and finished with an impressive 4.7 yards per carry average. He finished fifth in total rushing for the season in the NFC.

Only Barry Sanders in 1989 rushed for more yards as a rookie for the Lions. Jones is the fifth back in team history to gain more than 1,000 yards in a season. Sanders did it 10 times, Billy Sims three, James Stewart two and Steve Owens once.

"I was pleased overall with my rookie year," Jones said, "especially toward the second half of the season when they started using me more. Hopefully this year we win a lot more games."

In Green Bay's 38-10 over Detroit at Ford Field on Oct. 17, 2004, Jones only rushed twice for five yards.

"He is a great running back," said defensive tackle Grady Jackson. "You've got to wrap him up and make plays. He's looking to cut back every time. You've got to stay in your gaps, stay in your lanes and make plays."

The Packers will have to play the run better against the Lions than they did against other teams in their four preseason games. Green Bay yielded 4.3 yards per carry to opponents.

Packer Report Top Stories