Green Bay Packers

A.J. Dillon Has Become What the Packers Need Him To Be

Photo credit: Wm. Glasheen (USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

We’re four weeks into the season, and it’s clear the Green Bay Packers are at their best when they run the ball.

It sounds odd to say that when you’ve got the 2020 MVP at the helm, but the strong running game makes Rodgers’ life much easier. It takes the pressure off of him and the wide receivers while adding a threat to the play-action game. Of course, it helps when you have a dynamic duo of backs. We’ve seen just how vital Aaron Jones is to this offense, and it appears that his running mate, A.J. Dillon, is also a game-changer.

After his breakout game last season against the Tennessee Titans (124 yards and two touchdowns), it seemed like the Packers found a winner in Dillon. Re-signing Jones in free agency gave Green Bay a formidable combination at the position.

For the most part, the Packers haven’t quite relied on the run game enough. In Week 1’s blowout loss, the run was completely abandoned after the New Orleans Saints took an early lead. Week 2 saw the Packers leaning on Jones, who had a whopping four touchdowns (three receiving), and he played a more prominent role in Week 3.

But while Jones showcased his lightning, where has the thunder been? Dillon’s lack of production isn’t a skill-based problem but a lack of opportunity. He only had 15 total carries in the first three weeks of the season.

That lack of production changed in Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dillon slammed his way through the Steelers’ defense for 81 yards on 15 carries and an impressive 5.4 yards per attempt. The Quadfather’s longest run on the day was an impressive 25-yard rush to set up a Randall Cobb touchdown.

“I got skinny through a hole and, once I got through that first seam, there really wasn’t anybody until those DBs got me,” Dillon said following the game. “That was awesome. Really happy to score on the next play and get Cobby in there.”

While he never reached the end zone, Dillon outproduced his running mate on the ground. Jones had the same number of carries but only 48 rushing yards. While Jones played the more prominent role in the passing game, Dillon was the battering ram on the ground.

Dillon put in the hard work, getting the yards the team needed and controlling the clock. It was the type of performance typical of late in the season when the weather turns, but it was pleasant to see in early October.

This is the performance the Packers were hoping for when they took Dillon in the second round of last year’s draft. Hopefully, the offense uses his skills more frequently from now on. Dillon has made the most of every opportunity when Green Bay leans on him.

Rodgers praised Dillon’s performance following the game. “He’s that cold-weather Green Bay back that we’ve had over the years, but it’s good to see him get some carries in September and October before it gets cold,” Rodgers said in his post-game press conference while praising Dillon as a “really smart kid.”

Rodgers would probably prefer to throw the ball at every opportunity, but leaning on Dillon for the tough yards makes the Packers’ offense better. And he isn’t just a rusher, either. Dillon hasn’t had many opportunities in the passing game, but he’s shown soft, reliable hands when targeted. As this facet of his game evolves, the Packers will have two reliable backs in the passing game to terrorize defenses.

If Green Bay wants to run their offense optimally, they need to emphasize their running game. The offense has been at its best when relying on Aaron Jones, and it can be even better when getting Dillon into the mix. If last Sunday’s game is any indication, Matt LaFleur knows that too, and we should see more of Dillon in the future.

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Photo credit: Wm. Glasheen (USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

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