Our 2021 positional breakdowns are starting to wind down for the Green Bay Packers offense. So far, we have broken down the tackles, wide receivers, tight ends, guards, and centers. Next up, we break down one of the most underrated positions on the Packers roster. Today is our breakdown of the 2021 Green Bay Packers running backs.
Breakdown of the 2021 Green Bay Packers Running Backs
Since becoming the Green Bay Packers running backs coach in 2016, Ben Sirmans has been one of the most underrated coaches on Matt LaFleur’s staff. While other coaches on LaFleur’s staff have received promotions, all Sirmans has done has prepared his running backs. The running backs that have been the backbone of the Green Bay Packers offense.
Aaron Jones is the homerun hitter of the Green Bay Packers running backs. AJ Dillon has provided the Packers with a big back who is capable of multiple things. Their abilities were enough to have LaFleur call both “number one running backs.” Rounding out the group are two inexperienced running backs with potential, Patrick Taylor and Kylin Hill. Here are the breakdowns of each Green Bay Packers running backs.
Aaron Jones, Grade: B+
After the 2020 season, many had speculated that Brian Gutekunst wouldn’t re-sign Aaron Jones. The Packers spent a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on Dillon and the thought was Jones would cost too much to re-sign. Instead, Gutekunst surprised many by letting free agent Jamaal Williams depart and instead gave Jones a new contract. By re-signing Jones, Gutekunst brought back one of their biggest playmakers.
In 2021, Jones rushed for 799 yards on 171 carries, posting a 4.7 yards per carry average. He ran for four touchdowns on the season. As a pass-catcher, he hauled in 52 passes for 391 yards with six touchdown receptions. All of which were career highs by the former fifth-round pick.
Jones did see a drop in production in his rushing statistics. But there were several factors in that. Dillon’s carries and playing time made a dent in Jones touches. Along with that, with injuries to wide receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Randall Cobb, Jones was asked to do more as a receiver. Jones also suffered a knee injury that forced him to miss some time.
Even with splitting time with Dillon and missing time due to a knee injury, Jone was the biggest playmaker from the Green Bay Packers running backs group. His ability as a runner as well as a receiver makes him a major weapon in the Green Bay Packers offense.
AJ Dillon, Grade: B
In just his second season, Dillon has become a folk hero in Green Bay. With his love of the area, his big quads, and his throw-back running style, Dillon has become one of Packers fans’ favorite players.
With Williams departed, Dillon saw his touches increase in 2021. In 2020, Dillon carried the ball just 46 times for 242 yards with two touchdown carries. Dillon saw those numbers increase mightily in 2021. He carried the ball 187 times for 803 yards with five touchdown carries. Between him and Jones, they rushed for over 1,600 yards. Those numbers back LaFleur’s theory that the Packers have two number one running backs on their roster.
Dillon surprised many with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He wasn’t asked to catch too many balls while at Boston College. But with the Packers, his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield gave quarterback Aaron Rodgers confidence in the second year running back as a receiver. Dillon finished the season with 34 receptions for 313 yards with two touchdown receptions.
In the Packers 13-10 playoff loss against the San Francisco 49ers, Dillon suffered a broken rib. The injury forced LaFleur to alter the Green Bay Packers offense. The injury didn’t lose the game for the Packers, but losing Dillon, did hurt it.
Patrick Taylor, Grade: C+
Taylor was cut in the Packers final cut down leading into the regular season. However, Gutekunst and the Packers smartly re-signed Taylor to the practice squad.
When Kylin Hill went down with a knee injury early in the season, Taylor was promoted to the 53 man roster. He played in nine games, carrying the ball 23 times for 89 yards with one touchdown carry. During his limited time, Taylor showed good promise as a runner. He is a bigger running back and has decent speed.
From what he displayed, Taylor has a good chance to make next year’s roster. With his large frame and his ability to run, he has what the Packers are looking for to improve their special teams. If he can display the ability to play on special teams in next year’s training camp, he will be tough to cut.
Kylin Hill, Grade: Incomplete
Brian Gutekunst was applauded for grabbing Hill in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Hill’s slide into the seventh round had a lot to do with his lack of production in his final season at Mississippi State. But a lot of that had to do with playing in a pass-heavy spread offense that was implemented by Mike Leach.
Hill had a very solid 2021 training camp. His showing helped him win the number three running back spot over Taylor. Also, factoring into that, was his ability to return kickoffs. In eight regular-season games, Hill returned 19 kicks for 199 yards with a 19.9 yards per return average. However, against the Arizona Cardinals, Hill mistakenly returned a kick that was kicked in the end zone. On that return, Hill suffered a knee injury. The knee injury forced Hill to miss the remainder of the 2021 season.
Because of the injury, his availability for the start of 2022 is up in the air. If Taylor takes advantage of Hill’s absence, Hill might be expendable. Along with that, the Packers might look for a running back in this year’s NFL Draft that is capable of returning kickoffs as well as punts. If they do grab one, it will be even tougher for Hill to make the roster.
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