In the Green Bay Packers, 37-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings their offense was in playoff form. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 29 of 38 passes for 288 yards with two touchdown passes. Star wide receiver Davante Adams once again showed why he is the best wide receiver in the NFL. He hauled in 11 passes for 136 yards with one touchdown catch. But it wasn’t just the passing attack that made the Packers offense so lethal on Sunday night. The Packers ground game was just as successful. The Packers churned out 157 yards rushing on 32 carries. If the Packers can run the ball as they did on Sunday in the playoffs, they will be very difficult to beat. A big piece of that ground game, running back AJ Dillon, might be the key to the Packers reaching the Super Bowl.
AJ Dillon Will Play Key Role in Green Bay Packers Playoff Run
There aren’t many teams that can claim that they have two starting-caliber running backs. But for the Green Bay Packers, they are one of the truly lucky ones.
When you look at the Packers depth chart, Aaron Jones is listed as the Packers number one running back. It’s a spot that Jones has earned. The former fifth-round pick of Ted Thompson from 2017 has not only established himself as the top running back but also the Packers top home run hitter out of the backfield. Against the Vikings, Jones ran for 76 yards on just eight carries. On the season, Jones has rushed for 799 yards on 171 carries with four touchdown carries.
For the Green Bay Packers rushing attack, Jones is the “Batman” of the running backs group. With that the case, then AJ Dillon is the “Robin” of the group. However, comparing AJ Dillon to Robin seems like a slight to him and his ability.
Dillon isn’t a true number two running back. For the Green Bay Packers rushing attack, he is more of a “1B”. Dillon doesn’t have the same type of home run ability Jones has. However, he is just as lethal. He displayed that against the Vikings, carrying the ball 14 times for 63 yards with two touchdown carries. The skills he displayed on Sunday will be needed for the Packers playoff run. If AJ Dillon can continue to do what he did on Sunday in the playoffs, opposing teams will have a very difficult time stopping the Packers from reaching the Super Bowl.
Dillon’s Size and Running Style is Perfect for Lambeau Field
In the Packers history, they have had the luxury of having running backs who thrived running the ball in difficult weather. Edgar Bennett (1992-1997) was once described as a “mudder”. The term is something you would hear at a horse track talking about a horse running in the mud. Ryan Grant (2007-2012) never let playing in the snow stop him from breaking off big gains for the Green Bay Packers rushing attack. James Starks (2010-2016) utilized his slashing long strides style to contribute to the Packers winning Super Bowl XLV.
While AJ Dillon doesn’t possess the same style of running these three former Packers had, he has the tools to be as successful as they were. Sunday night, in sub-zero temperatures, Dillon proved that his running style is a perfect match for the elements of Lambeau Field in the winter months.
At 6’0″ weighing 250 pounds, Dillon is the type of running back that defenders don’t enjoy tackling when the weather turns cold. That doesn’t mean defenders are afraid to hit the second-year running back. But it does mean that Dillon will make a would-be tackler pay for trying to put a lick on him. When Dillon gets the ball, he very rarely goes down on first contact. Throw in cold temperatures, those collisions hurt even more.
The Packers have clinched the number one seed in the NFC playoffs. That means the road to the Super Bowl could go through Green Bay, Wisconsin. The weather in Green Bay in January isn’t expected to be a tropical paradise. In fact, the forecast appears to be a chilly one during that time. If the forecast becomes reality, that should mean a lot of AJ Dillon for the Green Bay Packers rushing attack.
Selection of Dillon Paying Off
When general manager Brian Gutekunst selected AJ Dillon in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, it wasn’t popular to Packers fans. Most fans believed that the Packers would be better off selecting a wide receiver, giving Rodgers another weapon in the passing game.
While the selection wasn’t popular, the selection has turned out to be quite beneficial for the Packers. Even with Gutekunst re-signing Jones to a new contract this off-season, Dillon has been a key part of the Green Bay Packers rushing attack.
At the time of Dillon’s selection, many wondered why Gutekunst would select a running back in the second round when he already had Jones. Then, when he re-signed Jones, many wondered why he would re-sign Jones if he used a recent high pick on Dillon. But to Gutekunst’s credit, he understood what head coach Matt LaFleur wanted to do with the Green Bay Packers rushing attack.
Gutekunst and LaFleur, along with running backs coach Ben Sirmans, had a plan when it came to the Green Bay Packers rushing attack. They knew they needed not just Jones, but also Dillon, to make the Packers ground game successful. That plan has turned out to be a successful one. Not only has Jones rushed for 799 yards, but Dillon has pitched in 614 yards. The combination of the two figures out to be 1,413 rushing yards on the season.
Dillon and Jones Opens Up the Playbook
Dillon’s difficult weather elements running style and Jones home run ability aren’t the only things they bring to the Packers offense. Both running backs have talents that bring other options to the passing game.
Even with being such a big body running back, AJ Dillon has the agility that many smaller running backs have. When he came out of Boston College, much wasn’t known about his pass-catching ability since he wasn’t asked to do that in college. But since he has been with the Packers, he has shown he is more than capable at catching the ball. This season, he has caught 27 passes for 261 yards.
Jones is the superior pass catcher. Jones has the ability to line up in the slot as a wide receiver while Dillon is lined up in the backfield. With Randall Cobb being injured, Jones has been able to chip in at the slot receiver position. Not only can he run pass routes from the slot, but he can also run the jet sweep that has become a staple in LaFleur’s offense.
With Dillon and Jones being multi-dimensional, it allows LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett more options for the Packers offensive game plan. There is a chance the Packers might line up both Jones and Dillon in the backfield at the same time. That is just one example of things Packers fans might see in this year’s playoffs.
AJ Dillon is just one piece to the Packers possible success in the playoffs. However, he is a very big piece to that possible success. Dillon gives the Packers options but also gives the Packers a very valuable piece to their rushing attack. Lambeau Field might not be a tropical paradise in January, but for AJ Dillon, it might be his playing ground.
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