Green Bay Packers

What Does AJ Dillon Need To Do To Stay In Green Bay?

Photo credit: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

A.J. Dillon is entering a contract year with the Green Bay Packers. The Packers drafted him in the second round of the 2020 draft and signed him to a standard, four-year rookie contract. After three productive years and one disappointing season in 2023, Green Bay offered him a one-year prove-it deal.

Last year was Dillon’s worst season statistically, especially in yards gained per carry. He averaged only 3.4 yards per carry last season after averaging 4.1 yards per carry in 2022 and 5.1 yards per carry as a rookie. If he wants a future in Green Bay after 2024, he needs to improve on this right now.

Dillon has never been Green Bay’s feature back. However, he complemented former running back Aaron Jones well due to their different styles. Jones was quick and nimble, while Dillon was more of a power back for short-yardage situations on crucial downs near the end zone.

But Dillon was non-existent in the red zone last year. Dillon had 36 rushing attempts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Of those carries, he scored on only 5.6% of them. A year earlier, he had 28 carries inside an opponent’s 20-yard line, scoring on 21.4% of those rushes.

He had 10 carries within the five-yard line in 2022 and 2023. But two years ago, he scored a touchdown on 40% of those carries, and last year he scored on 40% of them.

The Packers don’t need Dillon to break off 40-yard runs and average 120 yards per game to justify a roster spot. However, they need him to run hard and with power on third-and-one or fourth-and-goal situations.

Dillon did not put up the short-yardage numbers last year that everyone hoped he would. Even though the Packers give him more opportunities in those situations, he is converting fewer of them by a wider margin with more carries, resulting in an overall performance decrease.

However, Jones was hurt for most of last season. Dillon had to carry the load as the lead back, which is not his typical role with the Packers.

Josh Jacobs‘s arrival in Green Bay may take some of the pressure off Dillon, though. Jacobs is definitely a power back, but the Packers can use him as their primary back and use Dillon to complement him. But that also means that Dillon must be much more productive when he is called upon.

Dillon had productive games last season. Dillon had 70 yards on only nine carries in a 23-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 10. In Green Bay’s 27-19 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 13, Dillon had 73 yards on 18 carries. He can be productive throughout a game. Still, he needs to focus on the short-yardage situations because Jacobs will be Green Bay’s lead back.

A.J. Dillon has represented what it means to be a Packer. He has immersed himself in Green Bay culture. In return, Wisconsin has welcomed him, even giving him a key to the Door County peninsula.

Dillon wants to remain in Wisconsin. He chose to stay in Green Bay even though he had offers from the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Indianapolis Colts.

Keeping Dillon in Green Bay is also beneficial to the Packers. He has been a vital piece to the running game since 2020. Along with Aaron Jones, he helped take the load off of Aaron Rodgers during the 2021 season.

The Packers have not had many good running backs over the last 15 years. Eddie Lacy and Aaron Jones are the only ones worth mentioning. Based on his track record, Dillon can have a productive career, the type of career Lacy had before adding weight and losing a step. With the addition of Josh Jacobs, Dillon could be part of one of the most powerful backfields in the league. However, he needs to increase overall yards per carry, especially inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

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Photo credit: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

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