Over the next two weeks, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2020 season. Today, we examine the running backs.
For Head Coach Matt LaFleur, versatility was a prized commodity within his Green Bay Packers’ running back room heading into the 2020 season. An already promising backfield added a second-round pick in AJ Dillon, whose bruising style brought a different dynamic to the group and provided extra insurance in the event of injuries.
Dillon’s progression as a rookie gives the Packers flexibility this offseason with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams hitting free agency, and he appears poised to take on a more prominent role next season after a late-season surge in usage.
How acquired: Drafted in the second round (62nd overall)
Contract: 4 years, $5.28 million total; 2020 cap hit $961,060
Stats: 46 carries for 242 yards (5.3 average), two touchdowns; two receptions for 21 yards
While a head-scratching selection of the Packers in the second round, Dillon still provided plenty of excitement heading into the regular season as one of the team’s few skill position adds. However, the hype to watch the 247-pound rookie with tree trunk legs was put on hold for a little while as he was covered up on the depth chart by returners Jones and Williams. Dillon then experienced another setback with over a month on the COVID list from early November into December. In all, Dillon had totaled just 24 carries through the season’s first 15 weeks.
Coincidentally, it was injuries that also finally gave Dillon his opportunity in Week 16. With Jones limited by a hip injury and Williams inactive, Dillon bulldozed his way through the Tennessee Titans in a Packers rout. The Boston College product rushed for 124 yards and his lone two scores of the season on 21 carries in the snow, providing a glimpse of the cold-weather back that Green Bay imagined. Although Dillon would be used sparingly after his breakout performance with the return of Jones and Williams, his usage in a two-back “Bronco” package with Jones gave the Packers a creative blend of power and speed along with a receiving threat out of the backfield.
When fully healthy, Dillon’s bruising skillset was as advertised coming out of college and he began to show more patience in finding holes with increased carries. Another impressive element was Dillon’s hands, an aspect of his game that brought post-draft skepticism after few receptions in his collegiate career. Dillon continues to flash enough athleticism and traits at his size to take on a more well-rounded role for the Packers, and he stands to gain a large increase in reps following a very uncertain free agency period for the Green Bay backfield.