Packers: 3 backups who could see increased roles in 2021

Green Bay Packers, Rashan GaryApc Packvsrams 0116211015djp
Green Bay Packers, Rashan GaryApc Packvsrams 0116211015djp /

Each year in the NFL, teams lose players and sign others in the hope of strengthening their roster and improving. Key to success is the development of young players. The Green Bay Packers have a few candidates for backups who should land increased roles in 2021.

With free agency fast approaching and the draft a couple of months away, the Packers’ roster is going to undergo a number of changes. It’s already started with Christian Kirksey and Rick Wagner being released to create cap room.

The development of young players on the roster will, as always, be crucial to the Packers building on their recent success in 2021.

Which players could see increased roles next season?

Rashan Gary

It. Is. Time.

Rashan Gary has had the benefit of getting to learn and develop behind the Smith Bros. over the past two seasons. But Gary outplayed Preston Smith for much of the year and finished strong. Smith now faces an uncertain future.

Even if he returns, Gary should be a starter in Joe Barry’s defense. According to Pro Football Reference, Gary played just 44.4 percent of the Packers’ defensive snaps compared to 79.26 percent for Smith. Despite that, Gary had more sacks and matched Smith’s QB hit tally.

Regardless of Smith’s future in Green Bay, Gary should see an increased role in 2021. He has taken giant steps and deserves a full-time role moving forward.

Jon Runyan Jr.

When injuries hit the Packers along the offensive line, they often turned to rookie guard Jon Runyan Jr. And he played well in limited action, logging 160 offensive snaps.

Center Corey Linsley is unlikely to be re-signed, according to Sports Illustrated’s Bill Huber, and the Packers have already released Wagner.

This will lead to open spots along the offensive line, and Runyan will be a candidate to fill one of them. Whether it’s at center or guard, Runyan showed as a rookie that he can become a starter somewhere along the offensive line. He’ll have every chance to earn a starting job in 2021.

AJ Dillon

We don’t yet know whether the Packers will find a way to re-sign either Aaron Jones or Jamaal Williams. Realistically, at best they’ll be able to bring back one. It’s also possible both will sign elsewhere.

In either scenario, AJ Dillon‘s role will increase in year two. It’s why the Packers drafted him in the second round.

Dillon didn’t get a ton of opportunities as a rookie due to a couple of factors. Jones and Williams were the top two on the depth chart, while Dillon also missed five games due to Covid-19. But he made the most of his opportunities with a healthy average of 5.3 yards per carry.

And in his biggest audition — a 21-carry performance against the Tennessee Titans — Dillon gave Packers fans plenty of reasons to be excited by rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns.

We’ll see a lot more from Dillon in his second season.