Cory's Corner: AJ Dillon Can Be A No. 1 Back

He can run and catch — he just needs to do one more thing. 

The moment Aaron Jones went down with an MCL sprain in his right knee on Sunday vs. Seattle, there was a collective nervous breath at Lambeau Field. And rightfully so — Jones is a dynamic running back that can literally do it all with quick, efficient cuts and also catching the ball out of the backfield or split out wide.

But there’s no reason to worry.

“I can do a couple more things than just run straight through people,” said AJ Dillon on Thursday. 

The 6-foot, 247-pound running back proved it. He had his most complete game of his one-and-a-half year career in Week 10. He racked up 66 yards on the ground with a pair of scores and also tallied 62 yards receiving. 

Dillon even had a 50-yard reception down the left sideline where a galloping Dillon showed off his speed and slipperiness. 

When you think of the Door County loving back with a million dollar smile, you think of a 4x4 extended cab truck plowing over people. But Dillon has proven time and again that he can do more than devour opposing defensive players. 

Remember that groan when Dillon was drafted? (I made it too.) He was taken in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Many earmarked the Packers to take a wideout with that pick, but the Packers opted to add depth to the position and went with Boston College’s career rushing leader. 

“I think he is so multi-dimensional as a halfback,” said Packers coach Matt LaFleur. “I think he’s done a much better job of learning how to run in this league, in terms of running behind his pads, lowering his pad level, really delivering the boom.”

Jones will likely be out for a few games and it makes sense for the Packers to be cautious with him, especially since they are 8-2 and are firmly in control of the NFC North. 

But don’t start comparing Jones to Dillon just yet. There is one thing that Jones does very well — picking up the blitz. Jones has given Aaron Rodgers an extra second to throw numerous times this year and that extra second has meant the difference between converting third downs and even scoring touchdowns. 

And I’m not talking about the physical act of blocking, I’m talking of knowing where to block and when. It doesn’t have to be a picture perfect block, Rodgers just needs an extra moment.

Can Dillon be a No. 1 back? I think he can. He twirls like a cyclone and he keeps his feet churning every single play. Tomorrow, watch the difference between the Vikings defense in the first quarter to the third quarter. They want no part of tackling those legs, which are also known as redwood trees. 

But the running and receiving part of the game he has down cold. The team knows that he can do those things very well. The question will be if he can recognize a blitz and what he has to do to keep Rodgers upright. 

 

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

9 points

Comments (22)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
HawkPacker's picture

November 20, 2021 at 06:27 am

Yes, he is an excellent back but we will miss Jones. I hope that we find Dillon's back up for this game a positive. Hopefully, he will play well with no fumbles.

7 points
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stockholder's picture

November 20, 2021 at 06:36 am

Impact player. No Doubt about that.

6 points
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Bure9620's picture

November 20, 2021 at 07:12 am

The groaning after he was drafted was by analytics pinheads at PFF whom are still doubling down that Dillon was not "draftable." This is hilarious. I can tell you I was not groaning, he was my favorite pick of the draft. (Pending Jordan Love). Anyone whom actually watched AJ Dillon in college was not groaning. He faced the most 8 man boxes of any back in the country and still averaged nearly 6 yards per carry. He literally was their whole offense as the BC QB was essentially an option guy who could hit a target 5 yards away. All defenses did was crowd the box to stop Dillon.

"Well he cannot catch out of the backfield"
He was never ASKED to catch out of the backfield in their offense. I love how the PFF guys are still trying to twist themselves into a pretzel defending this.

13 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

November 20, 2021 at 08:06 pm

He was drafted exactly for this situation. Jones has been dodging the MCL until last week.

0 points
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Johnblood27's picture

November 20, 2021 at 07:36 am

Earl Campbell
College rushing statistics
Year GP Att Yds Avg TD
1974 11 162 928 5.7 6
1975 11 198 1,118 5.6 13
1976 7 138 653 4.7 3
1977 11 267 1,744 6.5 18
Career 40 765 4,443 5.8 40

Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight: 232 lb (105 kg)
Combine results - not in database - he runs a 4.6 in the 40 -- but his 5-foot-11, 244-pound build and 36-inch thighs allow him to plow over opponents.

AJ Dillon
College statistics
Season Team Conf G Rushing Receiving
Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD
2017 Boston College ACC 13 300 1,589 5.3 14 0 0 0.0 0
2018 Boston College ACC 10 227 1,108 4.9 10 8 41 5.1 1
2019 Boston College ACC 12 318 1,685 5.3 14 13 195 15.0 1
Career 35 845 4,382 5.2 38 21 236 11.2 2
Height: 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight: 247 lb (112 kg)
https://nflcombineresults.com/playerpage.php?i=30084

Thats what Im talkin about...

3 points
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Johnblood27's picture

November 20, 2021 at 07:38 am

BTW, I had Dillon on the Packers board as the ir 3rd round selection.

I also had Deguara on my board in the 4th round.

The trade of the 4th round selection moved the Packers preferred players up a round in terms of selection. I had this one cold, just not Love in the first... but who had that?

3 points
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Lphill's picture

November 20, 2021 at 07:37 am

I believe Dafney is back this is a plus in the running game.

7 points
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JordyWoodson's picture

November 20, 2021 at 07:51 am

Bold Prediction: AJ runs for 4 TDs in a blowout win (and crushes the Vikings hopes and dreams.)

7 points
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PewAuKeeFan's picture

November 20, 2021 at 10:36 am

I like it

1 points
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mbpacker's picture

November 20, 2021 at 10:57 am

Like it too but I don't think this will be a blowout, close actually. The Queens are desperate and need this win. Their D always gives us fits. GPG!

3 points
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NickPerry's picture

November 20, 2021 at 08:21 am

Considering how conservative the Packers medical staff is I think it's practically a guarantee Jones will be out until after the bye week meaning we'll get to watch Dillon against the Vikings and the Rams. I think many of us felt good about the 1-2 punch of Jones and Dillon coming into the season, especially after the Tennessee game last year. BUT after watching Dillon the first 10 weeks of this season I feel more than good, I feel great.

Once Dillon breaks through the line he gets up to speed pretty quickly and is as fast or faster than most linebackers and a hell of lot bigger than just about anyone in the opposing secondary. He MAKES players make "Business Decisions" before taking him head on which could be a position Vikings secondary players find themselves in often this weekend. My guess is a few will make that decision early in the game. By the 3rd and 4th quarters not so much, especially if the Packers are beginning to pull away which I think is how this game plays out. Close until midway through the 3rd quarter, then the Packers abundance of talent AND better coaching, starts pulling them away.

I think we see Dillon get around 25 touches this week and Taylor another 8-10. I look forward to this game more than any other divisional game because I grew up in Minneapolis. I HATE the Vikings! I hate the color purple which to me looks closer to Lilac anyways. LILAC... LMAO!

BTW... I could give a rats ass if PFF ever like AJ Dillon or gives him his props. I care about what Dillon does on the field and Dillon the person. So far BOTH seem pretty damn good and PFF was/is just wrong about Quadzilla!

13 points
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Since'61's picture

November 20, 2021 at 09:27 am

If the Packers are concerned about Dillon blocking for Rodgers put Dafney or Deguara in the backfield to block and put Dillon out wide. Or use a 2 back set with Dillon and Dafney and let Dafney stay in to block.

This is where the loss of Tonyan hurts. He would be a viable option for Rodgers if he is pressured quickly or if Dillon misses a block. Deguara not so much at least up to this point.

I think we run straight at the Vikings until they stop us and then we go with our play action game, build a lead and go back to pounding with Dillon as the Vikings defense wears down. My only concern is our OL, they have looked like they were wearing down over the last 2 games.

I wish we could get updates on Bak, Z, and Alexander. It's a little frustrating not hearing anything after all these months. GPG! Thanks, Since '61

7 points
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PewAuKeeFan's picture

November 20, 2021 at 10:39 am

I have great expectations from Dafney. He impressed me the few chances he had. More importantly, I think he did not embarrass himself in any game (at least I did not notice any).

2 points
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dobber's picture

November 20, 2021 at 11:32 am

No Tonyan + No Jones = time to emphasize a different part of the playbook.

"I think we run straight at the Vikings until they stop us and then we go with our play action game"

Vikes should continue to be vulnerable to the big play, and they'll be selling-out to fill the A and B gaps on Sunday where the Packers have had problems at times this season.

4 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

November 20, 2021 at 08:11 pm

Maybe they will be ready by playoff time. Za probably the best chance to get on the field in December?

-1 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

November 20, 2021 at 10:08 am

AJD can be the lead back. He was one of the leading lead backs in college. He is showing why Gutey drafted him in the 2nd.

Behind him, Patrick Taylor was one of the leading lead backs in college...he had such a fine Junior year he was mentioned as one of the top backs in the 2019 draft. However, Taylor made the decision to play his senior season at Memphis and early in the season injured his foot badly. His draft value disappeared, yet the Pack signed him as UFA where he spent most of 2020 on the injured list. He could be a steal.

We need a healthy AJ on the field. He is so valuable to this offense. I am confident AJD & PT can hold the fort until he is.

6 points
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PewAuKeeFan's picture

November 20, 2021 at 10:41 am

Yes, it would be totally awesome if Patrick Taylor realized his potential from 2019 this year.

2 points
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jont's picture

November 20, 2021 at 08:18 pm

Sounds like the James Starks story.
Let's hope the next chapter is the same too.

2 points
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PatrickGB's picture

November 20, 2021 at 10:46 am

“ he just needs to do one more thing. “ But that’s the rub. Jones and Williams both gave Rodgers the needed time to have the MVP season that he had last year. Expect to see more blitz and disguised pass rushers for a while now. If I were an opposing DC that would be my plan and I expect Zimmer to do just that. Also, with this years depleted offensive line it will probably work on passing downs. That’s why Dillon will be tasked with a lot of run plays and the team might throw more screens. I wish Bobby was available but he is not. If Daffney or Josiah can do some fullback type protection then that might help.

1 points
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Bure9620's picture

November 20, 2021 at 11:55 am

Not sure you want bring the house that often unless you are behind and desperate. I do not expect Zimmer to bring a ton of pressure, no more than usual. If anything I see Zimmer getting more aggressive with his coverages on the back end, specifically how Harrison Smith is used. Maybe disguising some match zone to try jump routes.

2 points
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Johnblood27's picture

November 20, 2021 at 03:36 pm

I sure hope Zimmer has his secondary trying to out-smart Rodgers...

just sayin...

2 points
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NickPerry's picture

November 21, 2021 at 05:54 am

"Expect to see more blitz and disguised pass rushers for a while now. If I were an opposing DC that would be my plan and I expect Zimmer to do just that."

Everybody keep saying the Chiefs or any other team for that matter wouldn't blitz Rodgers like they did Jordan Love. To tell you the truth, I'm SHOCKED more teams haven't at least tried to do it.

I wouldn't be shocked a bit if Zimmer tries it, especially if Patrick and Newman are playing which they are. If he does and it works, then that's HORRIBLE news for the Packers. IF it does work, EVERY team will do it until Bakhtiari is back and Jenkins moves back inside.

Which leads me to my next question. What the HELL is going on with Bakhtiari?

2 points
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