Remember when Packers coach Matt LaFleur came to Green Bay and pledged to run the football more and with purpose? There were people that were instantly enraged that someone could instantly forget about the Hall of Fame quarterback that was currently on the roster.
Turns out, LaFleur was on to something. Even in a passing heaving league, you still need a strong running game. The Packers averaged 112 yards a game in LaFleur’s rookie season as a head coach and 132 last year — a year in which Rodgers secured his third MVP award for leading the league in completion percentage (70.1), touchdowns (48) and passer rating (121.5).
And here’s the kicker: the Packers running game has a real chance to be even better this year. I know that may be hard to believe. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams were a solid combination for the last four years, but Jones and AJ Dillon could be even better. The reason I like Dillon so much is because he only had one chance to truly prove himself and he knocked it out of the park with a 124-yard, two-touchdown Week 16 performance against Tennessee. That one game was enough for the Packers to let Williams walk to Detroit in free agency.
Not to mention that Marcedes Lewis, one of the best tight end blockers in the game, and Josiah Deguara are coming back.
The running game is the reason why Rodgers’ passing numbers went all the way to the ionosphere. With defenses having to be honest in stopping the run, Rodgers became a magician with the play-action.
The X-factor is going to be Patrick Taylor. The former Memphis star is the versatile running back that general manager Brian Gutekunst and LaFleur covet, while having the quick burst and the vision to be a problem for opposing defenses. The Lisfranc injury he suffered in 2019 appears to be in his rearview mirror after being an undrafted rookie free agent by Green Bay in 2020.
Those three are dynamic and those three will push the running back position in Green Bay to new heights. Jones is the guy when the weather is good and Dillon is the guy when the team needs a mudder. Taylor is the hybrid of the two, while maintaining some coy secrecy. Since Taylor didn’t even play last year, that will be a huge advantage for a team looking to have an edge.
LaFleur came to Green Bay looking to transform the running game and after a 26-6 regular season record in two seasons, he has a litany of followers. Finally, people understand that you cannot pass first, then run. You have to be able to run the football first.
The Packers’ offense is a chameleon of different colors, but the running game will leave opposing defensive coordinators green with envy.
Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on “Clubhouse Live” and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn