When we think of the Packers run game, we think Aaron Jones. He’s been the dude in the backfield since 2018, which in NFL time is like a decade ago. He led the NFL in rushing touchdowns in 2019 when he first eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau and had another 1,000-yard plus season in 2020 which inspired the Packers to hand him a four-year, $48 million deal with $13 million fully guaranteed the following March.
This season the torch will be passed in the Packers backfield like Spotted Cow from bartenders to patrons at Lenny’s Tap in Green Bay.
Dillon, also known as Quadzilla thanks to the gargantuan size of the muscles on the front of his legs, was a controversial second-round pick in the 2020 draft, but averaged a hefty 5.3 yards per carry on 46 totes as a rookie.
And really quick — who had the most carries during the 2021 regular season on the Packers? Dillon did! He outpaced Jones 187 to 171. Jones was more efficient, averaging 4.7 yards per to Dillon’s 4.3.
But Jones, who turns 28 in December, is now over 1,000 career touches (including the playoffs) into his NFL career. Dillon has 286 professional touches to his name to date. Those thick legs are fresh. And the two backs were comparably efficient from an analytics perspective in 2021.
Last year, Jones was the better, more effective runner. There’s no doubting that. But the closeness in their power and elusiveness numbers coupled with the vast disparity in mileage on their bodies indicate a breakout is imminent for Dillon as he moves into the unquestioned feature role in Green Bay.
Given the Packers traded Davante Adams to the Raiders this offseason, no receiving weapon will go unnoticed this season, and Jones has established himself as one of the game’s best pass-catching backs with over 45 receptions in each of the last five seasons, including a career-high 52 last season.
And doesn’t it feel like the next offensive trend ready to take the NFL by storm is the elongation of former feature backs’ careers by way of morphing them into receiving hybrids? Jones and Austin Ekeler would be at the forefront of that movement. Even if it doesn’t take off across the league, the line between running backs and receivers is increasingly narrowing each season, and Jones has receiver abilities.
All of this means Dillon is in line to shoulder the traditional, between-the-tackles role in Matt LaFleur’s offense, one with Shanahan principles that will pound the rock often, even with the omnipotent presence of Rodgers at quarterback.
Will Dillon get three times as many carries at Jones in 2022? No. Probably not. But by November, we’ll understand who the true feature back is in one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFC. That man will be Dillon and his impossibly powerful thighs.