Green Bay Packers

The Packers Should Use More Two-Back Sets Next Year

Photo credit: Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

The Green Bay Packers will have a different offense in 2022 after trading Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders. Even if the team decides to draft or sign free-agent receivers, it’s hard to integrate them into the offense right away. Therefore, Matt LaFleur’s job will be to create a productive attack with other weapons. And looking at Green Bay’s roster, the best way to do it is to invest in the running backs, as A,J. Dillon and Aaron Jones formed one of the best duos in the NFL last season.

In 2021, the Packers had a very low usage of formations with two running backs on the field at the same time, questionable considering how good Jones and Dillon were. Green Bay played with the 21 personnel (two running backs, one tight end, two wide receivers) in only 2% of the offensive snaps (27 plays) the entire season. There were also five snaps with 20 personnel (two RBs, three WRs) and one snap with 23 personnel (two RBs, three TEs). The vast majority of the Packers’ snaps came from 11 personnel (61%) or 12 personnel (29%).

Packers personnel usage in 2021:

11 – 61% (689 snaps)

12 – 29% (325 snaps)

10 – 4% (47 snaps)

21 – 2% (27 snaps)

13 – 2% (26 snaps)

20 – <1% (five snaps)

00 – <1% (three snaps)

23 – <1% (one snap)

If the Packers want to change their approach, they can be inspired by similar schematic offenses that use more sets with two running backs. The leader in percentage of 21 personnel was the San Francisco 49ers (34%). The Atlanta Falcons (20%) and Minnesota Vikings (18%) ran varieties of the zone-blocking scheme and were also in the top five in 21-personnel usage.

One good example is Green Bay’s game against the Los Angeles Rams in the 2020 postseason. The Packers ran the same play five times, with Jones and Dillon in the backfield initially. Before the snap, Jones motioned to the slot, and Aaron Rodgers had options to hand the ball off to Dillon or use pass concepts. In that game, Green Bay used 21 personnel in 13% of the offensive snaps, with a 67% success rate.

According to Sharp Football Stats, the two personnel groupings with the highest percentage of successful plays are the ones with two running backs. Twenty-personnel plays had an 80% success rate, although in a limited number of snaps, followed by a 59% success rate with 21 personnel. That’s a significantly better rate than the 49% with the most-used 11 personnel.

Additionally, Jones and Dillon have complementary skill sets. While Dillon is a power back, Jones has the agility to align in the slot or the boundary, which will be necessary considering how thin Green Bay’s wide receiver group is. Jones had at least 350 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons, and he had six receiving touchdowns last season. Even Dillon, who’s not well known for his receiving abilities, achieved 313 yards and two touchdowns through the air in 2021.

“We’re fortunate. We’ve got two No. 1 backs,” LaFleur said last month during the NFL Scouting Combine.

“They both offer a little bit something different. But the one thing I love about both of those guys is obviously they can run the football at a very high level, but just their contributions in the passing game. Whether it’s in protection, whether it’s receiving out of the backfield, whether it’s lining them out wide. I think both of those guys are very versatile, and that’s an important part to our offense.”

Using Jones and Dillon on the field together is also a way to justify Green Bay’s heavy investment in each of them. Jones signed a four-year, $48 million extension last offseason, and the way the Packers restructured his contract this season indicates they intend to keep him at least through 2023. They selected Dillon in the second round of the 2020 draft, a heavily scrutinized move at the time.

Disregarding positional value, Jones and Dillon are among the five best players in the Packers offense. Now, it’s time to make the most out of it.

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