AJ Dillon will have an elevated role for the Green Bay Packers in the 2021 season. The second-year player out of Boston College had a solid rookie year, but he did not have a complete first season due to COVID-19. While some athletes caught it and were asymptomatic, Dillon was not as lucky. He was placed on the reserve/COVID list in November and spent more than five weeks there before being re-activated in mid-December.
Now that Jamaal Williams has signed with the Detroit Lions and Aaron Jones back with the Packers on a four-year deal, Dillon is now No. 2 on the running back depth chart. After some impressive runs and games last year, more will be expected of him during his sophomore NFL season.
When we look back on last season, what was the most impressive performance from Quadzilla? It came during the second-to-last week of the season against the Tennessee Titans. Williams sat out with a quad injury, and Dillon made the most of it with a breakout game. It showed his potential and was a glimpse at what a Jones-Dillon combo could bring in 2021 and beyond.
Dillon’s Best Game
On Dec. 28th, 2020, the Packers played the Titans at Lambeau Field. It was the Sunday night game that week, with head coach Matt LaFleur facing his old team. Green Bay was rolling into the playoffs and hoping for the No. 1 seed.
The Titans were 10-4 heading into the game. The Packers were 11-3. What could have been a tough battle for two playoff teams or even a potential Super Bowl matchup turned into a lopsided victory.
Dillon got his first run attempt with just under six minutes left in the first quarter. He was the primary back the entire offensive series. His first two runs were only for one yard each. He also had his first reception for no gain, but a penalty on Tennessee gave the Packers a first down.
The very next play Dillon ran for six yards. After a few more plays, Dillon had a nine-yard run to end the first quarter. The next play was a 21-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Equanimeous St. Brown.
On the very next possession, Dillon had three more runs. His first was for 14 yards. He then had another run for one yard and another for six. Then — you guessed it — another Aaron Rodgers touchdown, this time to Davante Adams.
He would have another two runs for 11 yards and a reception for five before halftime. Packers went into the half up 19-7.
Second Half Against Tennessee
Dillon had an impressive stretch the second time Green Bay got the ball in the third quarter. His first run was for eight yards. His second was for six. LaFleur continued to feed the back with a seven-yard pass. For the fourth-straight play, Dillon got the ball, this time for negative yardage.
After more plays and a few runs by Jones, Dillon then exploded with a 30-yard run and a touchdown. It was a snowy night at Lambeau, and 4th and 1 for the Packers. It was a beautiful play; he burst through a few defenders to make it look almost easy. (It’s still weird to watch footage of games with no fans.)
It wouldn’t be his only score of the game.
In the fourth quarter, Dillon had three straight runs for 23 yards. After a pass to Adams, Jones had two consecutive runs for zero yardage.
A 32-yard pass to Adams put Green Bay in the red zone. After a run for two yards, Dillon got the ball again for seven yards and his second touchdown of the game. The Packers won 40-14.
AJ’s Final Line
Dillon ended Week 16 with 21 runs for 124 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a reception for five. It was the most touches he had the entire season. After being out Weeks 9 through 13, it was an impressive showing.
Losing Jamaal Williams wasn’t fun, but the Packers did not have the salary cap space left to re-sign both him and Aaron Jones. With Dillon under his rookie contract for another three years, his second season will be very important to the Packers and their evolving offense.
Let’s hope there are more Week 16s for Dillon when the 2021 season arrives. And let’s hope he’s improved his Lambeau Leap since then.