A.J. Dillon Brings More Than Quads to Green Bay Packers

A.J. Dillon
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Second-year Green Bay Packers running back A.J. Dillon is starting to get attention around the NFL. The attention we are talking about doesn’t have anything to do with his quadriceps either. While it was his quadriceps that earned Dillon attention in his rookie training camp, he is now earning attention with his play. In his second professional season, A.J. Dillon is becoming a major component for the Green Bay Packers offense.

A.J. Dillon Brings More Than Quads to Green Bay Packers

Packers Offense Utilizing A.J. Dillon’s Skills on the Ground and in the Air

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst surprised many when he selected A.J. Dillon in 2020. It wasn’t that Dillon didn’t earn his second-round draft status. Dillon more than proved he was worthy to be selected in the second round while at Boston College. In his three seasons with the Eagles, he carried the ball 845 times for 4,382 yards with 38 touchdown carries. His 5.2 yards per carry average helped him earn first-team All-ACC three times. The production was never in question. But did the Packers really need another running back, especially one that cost them a second-round pick?

In 2019, running back Aaron Jones carried the ball 236 times for 1,084 yards and had 16 touchdown carries. Along with Jones and his home run ability, the Packers had a very solid and proven backup in Jamaal Williams. The season before Dillon’s arrival, Williams had 460 yards rushing on 107 carries with one touchdown run. All very solid numbers for a second-string running back. Along with that, Williams was one of the best pass protectors out of the backfield in the NFL.  With Jones and Williams solidly entrenched as the Packers top two ball carriers, the decision to select Dillion seemed like an unnecessary selection.

The trio of Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and A.J. Dillon was together for the 2020 season. However, that would be the only season the three would spend together as Packers. While Jones received a new contract, the Packers parted ways with Williams who signed with the Detroit Lions. With Williams out of the picture, that meant Dillon would be the new running mate for Jones. So far, Dillion looks like an upgrade over Williams.

Dillion Bringing Size, Speed, and Ability to the Offense

Saying A.J. Dillon is an upgrade over Jamaal Williams isn’t a crack against Williams. Williams is a very capable running back who did a lot of things for the Packers during his time in Green Bay. The statement is more telling about what Dillon is and can do for the Packers offense.

Even in his rookie season, which saw him miss several games due to COVID, Dillon displayed what he was able to do when given the chance.  In week 16 of 2020, on a snowy Wisconsin night, Dillon made the most of his chances. Against the Tennessee Titans, Dillon ran for 124 yards on 21 carries with two touchdown runs. That night, Dillon had a 5.9 yards per average carry. It was Dillon’s best performance of 2020 and it gave a glimpse of what he can do when given the chance.

Without having to worry about battling Williams for carries, Dillon entered this season with a better understanding of his role. He knew he would be the number two to Jones, but Head Coach Matt LaFleur has expanded his role as the season has progressed. So far, Dillion has carried the ball 97 times for 421 yards with two touchdown carries. Dillon’s numbers,  combined with Jones 541 yards rushing and three touchdown carries, have provided the Packers with a reliable ground game.

However, after the Packers 17-0 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, Dillon will be leaned on even more in the next several weeks.

Dillon’s Role will Increase in the Next Several Weeks

In Sunday’s game, Jones suffered a knee injury. Luckily for head coach Matt LaFleur and the Green Bay Packers offense, it isn’t as severe as first expected. It appears that he will only miss several weeks.

With Jones out, that will mean that A.J. Dillon will see even more carries. Gutekunst’s decision to use a second-round pick on Dillon looks even better. Dillon has shown he can be leaned on and can be the main ball carrier. That is pretty important, with Patrick Taylor being the primary backup to Dillon. Taylor registered his first NFL carries last Sunday.

Replacing Jones in the Green Bay Packers offense won’t be easy. Not only is he a home run threat on the ground, but he is a weapon in the passing game. However, Dillon has shown that he is a very capable pass-catcher out of the backfield. This season he has caught 16 passes for 196 yards with one touchdown reception. He isn’t at Jones level as a pass catcher, but he is more than capable of catching the ball.

The biggest, and maybe most important, task for Dillon will be in pass protection. Protecting star quarterback Aaron Rodgers from incoming blitzes will be crucial for Dillon and the offense. If Dillon can hold up in pass protection, it will help the Packers offense stay on track.  Expect tight end/h-back Josiah Deguara to help out in pass protection. Gutekunst used a third-round pick on Deguara, envisioning him as an h-back in the Packers offense.  Packers fans should expect LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to use Deguara quite a bit in pass protection while Jones is out.

A Possible Glimpse of the Packers Future Running Attack

As pointed out, Jones’s four-year contract he signed this off-season is more like a two-year contract. That means that the Packers could cut ties with Jones in the next two years.

Even with the Packers making a run at a Super Bowl appearance, this could be a tryout for A.J. Dillon. If he plays well with Jones out, the Packers front office might cut ties with Jones before his deal is up. It would be a risk to cut Jones, with him being such a big part of the Green Bay Packers offense. But if Dillon shows that he can be the main ball carrier, it could get the Packers to start to think more about the future.

Still, the Packers are focused on the present. Dillon has shown that he is a very capable back. Jones will be missed, but Dillon has shown he is capable of stepping up. For the next couple of weeks, it will be the A.J. Dillon show.

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