Green Bay Packers

Aaron Jones Is Still Key To A Super Bowl Run

Photo credit: Mark Hoffmann (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports)

Much was made of AJ Dillon‘s performance for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon, and rightfully so. The second-year back tallied 128 yards and two touchdowns in a 17-0 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Much of Dillon’s best work came after Aaron Jones went down with a knee injury in the third quarter. However, the Packers need the healthy one-two punch of Jones and Dillon to be true Super Bowl contenders.

The news initially seemed grim for Jones, who appeared to be in a considerable amount of pain after getting spun to the ground and emerging from the pile grasping his right knee. The reporting on the television broadcast painted a much darker picture. He was apparently in tears, looking for his family, leading many to assume the worst. Did he have an ACL tear, which is often easily diagnosable on the sideline? When the news came out today that it was “only” an MCL sprain, it was a jolt of good news that the Packers needed. They could have Jones back after the bye week.

There’s no denying that Dillon has been good, but it would be tough to argue that a fully healthy Jones isn’t a better, more dynamic player. Jones already had 37 catches for 298 yards this season, well on his way to setting a career-high for receiving yards. Dillon has had some flashes in the receiving game. But many of those have come on screens out of the backfield, allowing him to get going with a full head of steam. Those kinds of plays are important, but Jones has more experience, and Matt LaFleur trusts him running more routes within his offense.

Dillon has become known for his strength and power, but he hasn’t shown the breakaway game speed yet. He ran a faster 40 time (4.53) at the combine than Jones (4.56), but any Raiders fan can tell you that 40 times don’t tell the whole story. The longest run of Dillon’s career is 36 yards, while Jones has five touchdowns from a greater distance than that, including two 70-plus yard scores. Granted, Jones has had more opportunities, but he’s also taken advantage of them. Dillon may break away for a long run or two while Jones is out. But until that happens, it’s understandable to remain skeptical of his ability to make home-run plays.

The least quantifiable aspect of having both Jones and Dillon healthy is the pressure it puts on a defensive coordinator, particularly while both are on the field. Stripping that dynamic down to just one player — taking nothing away from the potential that Patrick Taylor might have in a bigger role — limits the number of wrinkles that an offense can show. Jones is about as do-it-all as it gets, between running between the tackles, moving in space, catching passes, and pass protection. Asking Dillon to do that is a tall task.

The Green Bay Packers can weather the storm of having Aaron Jones out for a couple of weeks. Dillon is undoubtedly a hot hand right now, and it will be fun to see what the former second-round pick can do over a couple of games. He will likely find himself as a bona fide RB1 at some point in his career. But with a player as talented as Jones still on the roster, it’s not time for Dillon to ascend to that role quite yet. Their dynamism as a duo helps alleviate pressure on Aaron Rodgers and the passing game. It will also help control the clock to keep the defense as fresh as possible. Dillon has a big opportunity waiting for him over the next few weeks, but the Packers need Jones if they hope to get back to the Super Bowl this year.

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