Green Bay Packers running back A.J. Dillon took a big jump as a second-year player in 2021, but his goal for improving in 2022 can be summed up in three letters: APB.
No, not “all-points bulletin.”
The 247-pounder wants to be a running back who can be on the field in any situation and contribute in every way possible.
“It’s definitely something I’m still trying to work on,” Dillon said earlier this month. “Coming in, I was always the big back, and still am to a lot of people, the big back, only good for third-and-short. I really want to be — and I see myself as — an ‘APB’, all-purpose back, no matter what the situation. Last year was a good start…I’m happy with the improvement, but obviously still working on it.”
To Dillon, becoming more well-rounded means improving as a runner, receiver and pass blocker. It’s about becoming more and more comfortable on the mental side of the game and striving to be perfect in all areas, including the passing game.
Last season was a strong step in the right direction. In 2021, Dillon led the team with 803 rushing yards, caught 34 of 37 targets in the passing game and finished with 1,116 total yards and seven total scores.
More opportunities in the receiving game could be coming. After catching 91.9 percent of his targets and averaging 8.5 yards per target, Dillon proved highly capable and efficient as a pass-catcher during his second season. He lamented the three missed targets and said he’s still working on his hands and route-running ability.
Dillon also said there could be more chances to get on the field with Aaron Jones as a tandem in 2022, and both running backs could get more targets now that the Packers have to replace the production of Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Along with more production in the passing game, Dillon said he wants to improve in pass protection so he can be on the field in all situations.
“Also pass protection. At BC, I really wasn’t asked to do much in the passing game at all. So just really honing in on that, that’s why I talked so much about the mental piece of understanding defenses so it’s not, ‘Oh snap, he’s coming now!’ Dillon said. “It’s anticipating, if I see a coverage or see a safety move over, being able to anticipate those kind of things.”
Last season, Dillon was on the field for 476 snaps and received 221 total touches. Both numbers could go up, potentially significantly, in 2022.
Becoming an all-purpose back is a sure-fire way of getting on the field more.
“It’s a holistic approach. I’m trying to work on my game altogether,” Dillon said. “Pass protection, pass blocking, even running the ball. Not running straight up, if I ran behind my pads I could get an extra 2-3-5 yards, maybe even a touchdown. Just working on everything.”