Aaron Green’s long and winding road has taken him to Los Angeles, but the question remains, will that be just another stop on his journey?
Green, who starred for Madison High School in San Antonio to the tune of nearly 5,000 career yards, including 1,700 yards and 19 scores as a senior, was a five star recruit as the 11th rated player in the country by ESPN. After a season in Nebraska, where he was stuck behind Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah, Green decided to move closer to home, and transferred to TCU.
After redshirting in 2012 and sharing carries in 2013, when he averaged a scant 3.2 yards per carry on 72 attempts. He did show flashes of brilliance though, breaking off a 22 yard gain on fourth and one against Iowa State during what ended up being the game-winning drive for the Frogs and posting solid efforts against Texas and Kansas. But when Green truly began to shine was when offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham made the move to Fort Worth and installed the Frog Raid offense.
Green nearly doubled his touches in 2014 – and made the most of his opportunities – averaging a robust 7.1 yards per carry and scoring nine times on the ground. He was even better a season later; as the Frogs struggled with injury after injury on their offensive unit, Green became the go-to guy, toting the rock 244 times, scoring 11 touchdowns, and posting just a shade under 100 yards per game on the ground. Despite his increased workload, Green felt he had more to give, telling reporters at the Senior Bowl that
“I feel I was definitely under-appreciated or not used to my full potential, but we were winning games at TCU. That’s all that really mattered to me, so I never really complained. But I think here I will be able to showcase my running skills a little more.”
Not much was made of Green as a pro prospect leading up the draft, and the 5’11”, 203 pounder was not extended a combine invite, to the surprise of many. His Senior Bowl performance, a five carry, 34 yard effort won him some fans, but despite the praise he received, he went undrafted. The Los Angeles Rams were watching, though, and felt Green had done enough at the Senior Bowl, TCU’s Pro Day, and on film, to earn a camp invite. He has been winning fans ever since.
The Rams, as you may know, have been featured on Hard Knocks this season, and Green has been found by the camera on more than one occasion. A fan favorite in Fort Worth, Green has won over teammates and fans both on the field and off – where his rapping skills were featured in episode one. The question remains, has he done enough between the tackles to win over the coaches?
LA is rife with running backs that do one thing well; outside of star Todd Gurley, their stable of horses tend to be either fast or powerful, good pass blockers or special teams mavens, etc. Green has been labeled an excellent pass blocker based on his collegiate resume, where he did not allow a QB pressure filling that role throughout the entire 2015 season. But, despite this special skill, there are still doubts as to whether he can run between the tackles in the professional game, break tackles at the next level, or hold up over the course of a 16 game season.
Gurley’s expected backup, Tre Mason, is a giant question mark at this point, as legal troubles and a camp no-show have all but eliminated him from competition. That leaves Benny Cunningham, an excellent return man who will make the roster, but may not factor into the running game as much, and Malcolm Brown, another UDFA (2015) who was coincidentally both a high school rival of Green in San Antonio, at Byron Steele High School in Cibolo, and a collegiate competitor at the University of Texas. It appears the final battle will come down to the two Texas-bred backs, who have enjoyed being teammates for the first time in their careers.
While Green had the early leg-up after the first preseason game of the year, when he went for 27 yards on the ground and another 37 through the air – including the game winning score against the Cowboys, an injury just days later in practice has set him back and forced him to miss the second game of the preseason. In Green’s absence, Brown was given 12 touches at running back, where he amassed 68 yards on the ground and scored on a pass as well. In two games, the second year pro has 130 combined rushing yards with a 6.7 yards per carry average.
Unfortunately for Aaron, the poor timing of his injury may ultimately cost him a roster spot in LA, despite the coaching staff’s obvious affinity for the young back. He did return to action this week though, and may get a shot to make a good last impression in the third preseason game.
As long as Cunningham and Brown stay healthy, Rams coach Jeff Fisher will likely go with a veteran over an untested rookie. But, LA will surely try and keep Green on the practice squad, where he will have an opportunity to latch on with the team later in the season or get picked up by another club. Green almost assuredly has a professional future, but his journey will likely take him to yet another stop.