When you think of this era of play in the NFL, what comes to mind? Do you think of the run game and how important it is? No, the first thing that will probably come to mind is the fact this is now a quarterback-driven league and since most quarterbacks coming out of the draft are dual-threat runners and throwers of the football, why would you need a good run game?
Apart from the Tennessee Titans, Philadelphia Eagles, and Green Bay Packers, there is no real established run game plan in the NFL other than just an option for the quarterback to hand the ball off too and to be blockers against defenses that will send more and more rushers after mobile quarterbacks.
The Packers, however, have been able to find a way to use the run game as a huge advantage to not only gain yards and first downs but score easy touchdowns.
What do the Packers do?
Since the wide receiver issue has not been fully solved, I think it’s time to talk about the side of the Packers’ offense that is often overshadowed by Aaron Rodgers and his MVP level type of play. I am of course talking about the one-two punch of Aaron Jones and A.J Dillion.
Matt LaFleur has achieved something that many teams are still trying to figure out and that is how to not overuse their star running back and have him leave or retire early due to the fact that the running back life cycle is extremely short in terms of how productive they will be.
LaFleur has created a combination of a slippery back, who can catch balls out of the backfield and make people miss, and combine this with a downhill runner who is vital to move the chains and get the short yards at the goal line and get six points.
Aaron Jones is the slippery back who is able to provide that scrimmage-yard eating machine mentality that we are used to seeing in players such as Christian McCaffrey and Melvin Gordon.
Jones had a very productive 2021 season with a combined 1,190 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns. Jones ended the season with 52 receptions for 391 yards, which led to an impressive 7.5 yards per reception and six touchdowns.
His rushing was where he excelled the most with Jones ending the season with 799 rushing yards with 4.7 yards a carry on average and four touchdowns. All this was achieved whilst also missing two games of the regular season.
The former UTEP back has been a good option for Aaron Rodgers in the passing game and has the ability to get between the tackles and be a shifty back that has improved in the physical parts of his game.
Jones is currently 27 years old, signed an extension last year, and does not show any sign of slowing down. If Jones can stay healthy, the Packers will have a good chance of taking some of pressure off Rodgers’ arm and put that in the hands and feet of Jones and Dillon.
A.J. Dillon provides that big back mentality of running downhill and getting the yards necessary to move the chains, and also every once in a while hit a few stiff arms to get up field. Dillion had a good season for the Pack, leading the team in rushing yards with 803 yards and five touchdowns and an average of 4.29 yards per carry.
Dillon is a back that provides the offense a way to get the easy third-and-shorts and gain at least four yards every carry, which is key if you want to establish the run game early in the game and make teams pay for it later on.
The former Boston College back is a pain for offenses later in the game when the defense is gassed. We have seen this with running back Derrick Henry and how he punishes defenses the more as the game goes on.
Dillon is a 247-pound back and will always be the one to run downhill in the trenches, however he is different to Henry because A.J. is not constantly used in most plays, and unlike Henry, he gets breaks on the sideline to recharge for the right moments and situations.
This is where the partnership with Aaron Jones is so important. It gives A.J. a chance to take a breather and allow Jones to get the bigger chunk plays out of the backfield through the air and on the ground. When the defense gets tired, Dillon comes in and provides that punch.
Dillon is still a young back and is learning the game with every passing season and will undoubtedly be key in the next few years.
No matter how you look at the Packers this season, one thing is for certain, and that is the fact that Aaron Rodgers and his arm is not the only threat on the Packers offense.
This offense is balanced and can attack with both elements which gives Matt LaFleur endless ways to take down opposing defenses.
The Packers have the luxury of not only having one star back but a combination of two running backs that could be starters on separate teams.