Packers: Is AJ Dillon ready to be full-time running back?

Green Bay Packers, AJ Dillon (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers, AJ Dillon (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The Green Bay Packers have an interesting decision to make with free-agent running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in 2021 in terms of production and addressing the salary cap. To make matters even more intriguing is whether or not 2020 second-round pick AJ Dillon is the guy moving forward.

There’s pressure on a number of free agents that may or may not have played their final snap as a Packer that could lead to new products on the field in 2021. Not to mention their salary cap space comes in tight — at around negative-$30 million, give or take — which already makes signing a Jones or Corey Linsley rather tough.

The easy route? Green Bay can make salary cap space by letting both Jones and Williams walk ensuring Dillon is the featured back of the future.

After all, the Packers’ selection of QB Jordan Love is a future-pick move and it appears Dillon could be ahead of schedule as early as next season.

But is Dillon ready to be THE guy in Green Bay?

The case for AJ Dillon

The greatest upside to Dillon is his age. At only 22 years old, Dillon has the body — not to mention the thickness that is his legs — to put miles upon miles running in the harsh conditions at Lambeau Field.

Dillon’s makeup gives him an advantage at trucking defenders on the way to the end zone and picking up short-yardage conversions. Dillon has similarities to other powerful running backs such as Saquon Barkley or Derrick Henry and has given us a glimpse of the future in 2020.

Dillon set several rushing accolades during his collegiate career at Boston College with 40 total touchdowns and 4,382 yards in four seasons. His impressive workload was enough for GM Brian Gutekunst to draft him.

Dillon’s breakout game came against the Tennessee Titans in Week 16 powering his way towards 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns. If that game was to be the full complement of tools Dillon provides, then that’s as close to an audition you’re going to get in the NFL.

The unfair case against A J Dillon

While the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic was no stranger to the 2020 NFL season, Dillon did contract the virus costing him a month of action. While we cannot fault him for getting sick, it did take away precious snaps on the field.

In an already crowded backfield, Jones and Williams carried most of the bulk as the Packers marched towards a 13-3 record and the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Should Green Bay find a way to sign Jones according to what the market values him at, then it could be another long wait to see Dillon in action.

Rookie seasons are sometimes hard to judge because, on limited action, it’s hard to accurately judge what a player is capable of. At Boston College, Dillon was a beast, but in the NFL, the book is still out on him.

However, regardless of what Green Bay does with Jones and Williams, Dillon will be with the team in 2021 forgoing any setbacks. In 2021, the NFL should resume operations a little more normal than the 2020 season.

This means Dillon will get a full training camp and preseason to prove to the Packers that he was worth the second-round pick, and to be the running back of the future.

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