In the modern NFL, save for a few teams, there are not many true alpha running backs who have a strangle hold atop the depth chart.
The jaw dropping power and physicality at every level of today’s defenses alone generally requires teams to have multiple capable tailbacks to share in the brutality of the ever-expanding NFL schedule.
The Packers have two stellar running backs in A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones which is equal parts luxury and necessity.
But with Aaron Jones turning 28 years old this season, and entering 2023 with a $20 million dollar cap hit, the time has come to shift the RB1 load to A.J. Dillon.
I don’t want to be mistaken for saying that Aaron Jones is washed up or no longer a dynamic NFL running back.
He definitely is still an elite-level playmaker and brings an element to the Packers in his running and receiving prowess that not many other teams can boast.
In fact, I love Aaron Jones. His play (and philanthropy) has brought a tremendous amount of joy to Title Town, and he’s embodied all that it means to be a Green Bay Packer.
But we know how this is going to play out. In the business of the NFL, Jones is creeping closer to the ghoulish running back age of 30 and will likely not be playing for the Packers in 2023, his age 29 season.
In fact, I’m sure I’m not in the minority in saying that I was fairly surprised that he signed a second contract with the Packers after the 2020 season.
It’s an indictment of the beating NFL running backs take, and the talent evaluators aversion to being on the wrong side of when those hits start to add up.
Enter Quadzilla, the Mayor of Door County: A.J. Dillon
A.J. Dillon was born under a bad sign when he found his way to Green Bay.
His selection in the 2020 NFL Draft seemed like an utter head scratcher at the time, framed badly by an all-time head scratcher in the first round selection of QB Jordan Love. Not A.J.’s fault!
Yes, most of us understand by now that the Draft is a tool utilized to fill future needs, but using a second round selection on the unheralded back out of Boston College seemed like a stretch with both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams firmly entrenched as RB1 and RB2, respectively.
Obviously, the plan was enacted to allow Jamaal Williams to move on after the season and elevate A.J. Dillon to a more prominent role in the offense.
Dillon rewarded the front office and fans alike in the 2021 season with 1100 yards from scrimmage and seven total touchdowns.
The young Dillon has shown that he belongs, and only gets stronger the more he touches the football. He offers a complimentary skillset to the shifty and dynamic Aaron Jones, but has a build that can withstand running into the walls put up by NFL front sevens.
Last season Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon received almost the exact amount of total touches during the regular season (223 vs 221).
That’s 50/50, and I think something to the tune of 60/40 or maybe a touch more would benefit the Packers for three reasons:
- The Packers need to see more of A.J. Dillon to know that he can shoulder a full load in the event that Aaron Jones is not on the roster in 2023
- Aaron Jones has proven most effective when he’s fresh and can utilize his wheels and elusiveness. He’s also been dinged up numerous times over the past few seasons and missed a couple of games
- A.J. Dillon’s style of play suits the DNA of the 2022 (& beyond) Packers. I think the best analogy I can think of is Jamal Lewis paired with the Ravens defense. Although, the guy under center is probably also a bit better than Kyle Boller
As a Packers fan, it’s really a treat to have two special players (and people!) in Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon, it’s a shame that they can’t hang around forever.
In the ‘Not For Long’ league, it would be good business for the Packers to lessen the load on Aaron Jones and see if A.J. Dillon is ready for primetime.
You can follow Adam on twitter at @adamjcarlson28.