Green Bay Packers running back A.J. Dillon recently proposed to his girlfriend, Gabrielle Toonen. Dillon’s 2021 season is already off to a good start without playing a single down, but at least 10 carries should be doable for the 2020 second-round pick in Sunday’s season opener to celebrate an important life event.
What do you say, Matt LaFleur? Will you reward Dillon after he spent most of his rookie season on the bench? Last year, Dillon did not play a single offensive snap in the Packers’ Week 3 meeting against the New Orleans Saints. However, that is bound to change Sunday when they face the Saints in Jacksonville.
Green Bay’s head coach is a strong believer in the running back by committee approach. That means Packers fans should expect to see Aaron Jones and Dillon on the field Sunday against New Orleans. Everyone knows Jones is the primary back, but what does that mean for Dillon, who is now the primary backup with Jamaal Williams no longer in the picture? Maybe looking at LaFleur’s two last two season openers will give us a better idea.
In 2019, Green Bay faced the Chicago Bears in LaFleur’s first game at the helm. The offense came out sputtering and gained a grand total of 213 yards on 57 plays. Jones led the ground attack with 13 carries for 39 yards. Williams, meanwhile, rushed the ball five times but failed to pick up even a single yard.
Luckily, the second time around went a little differently. The Packers’ offense was humming against the Minnesota Vikings to start the 2020 season- finishing with over 500 yards and 43 points. The ground attack was also much better as Jones finished with a team-high 16 carries for 66 yards. Williams wasn’t even the second-leading rusher with seven carries for 21 yards. It was Tyler Ervin who managed to pick up 38 yards on just three carries.
When the offense is clicking, LaFleur has no problem letting an assortment of backs carry the football. However, when things are stagnant, those touches can be hard to come by.
The key for Dillon is to make the most of his snaps early in the game. Jones will be the first running back on the field, but Dillon should get at least a series during the first half. A couple of big runs would set him up for a much bigger day and possibly make double-digits carries a reachable number.
Don’t expect Dillon to rush for 124 yards and two touchdowns like he did last season against the Tennessee Titans – this won’t be that type of game. However, a decent helping of carries could augment a strong start for Dillon in Year 2.