Cory's Corner: The Packers Running Game Will Be Even Better

Green Bay's rushing yards per game has gone up the last two years. This year's dynamic crew could blow the lid off the rushing ceiling. 

Remember when Packers coach Matt LaFleur came to Green Bay and pledged to run the football more and with purpose? There were people that were instantly enraged that someone could instantly forget about the Hall of Fame quarterback that was currently on the roster. 

Turns out, LaFleur was on to something. Even in a passing heaving league, you still need a strong running game. The Packers averaged 112 yards a game in LaFleur’s rookie season as a head coach and 132 last year — a year in which Rodgers secured his third MVP award for leading the league in completion percentage (70.1), touchdowns (48) and passer rating (121.5). 

And here’s the kicker: the Packers running game has a real chance to be even better this year. I know that may be hard to believe. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams were a solid combination for the last four years, but Jones and AJ Dillon could be even better. The reason I like Dillon so much is because he only had one chance to truly prove himself and he knocked it out of the park with a 124-yard, two-touchdown Week 16 performance against Tennessee. That one game was enough for the Packers to let Williams walk  to Detroit in free agency. 

Not to mention that Marcedes Lewis, one of the best tight end blockers in the game, and Josiah Deguara are coming back. 

The running game is the reason why Rodgers’ passing numbers went all the way to the ionosphere. With defenses having to be honest in stopping the run, Rodgers became a magician with the play-action.

The X-factor is going to be Patrick Taylor. The former Memphis star is the versatile running back that general manager Brian Gutekunst and LaFleur covet, while having the quick burst and the vision to be a problem for opposing defenses. The Lisfranc injury he suffered in 2019 appears to be in his rearview mirror after being an undrafted rookie free agent by Green Bay in 2020. 

Those three are dynamic and those three will push the running back position in Green Bay to new heights. Jones is the guy when the weather is good and Dillon is the guy when the team needs a mudder. Taylor is the hybrid of the two, while maintaining some coy secrecy. Since Taylor didn’t even play last year, that will be a huge advantage for a team looking to have an edge. 

LaFleur came to Green Bay looking to transform the running game and after a 26-6 regular season record in two seasons, he has a litany of followers. Finally, people understand that you cannot pass first, then run. You have to be able to run the football first.

The Packers’ offense is a chameleon of different colors, but the running game will leave opposing defensive coordinators green with envy. 

 

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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

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6 points

Comments (48)

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

July 17, 2021 at 06:58 am

When you have an MVP QB (happy or not) and you constantly punch the other team in the mouth with your dominant run game it deflates an opponent.

Of course the other benefit of this epic running game will be a Defense which should be fresher and more effective due to less time on the field.

This Packers team is set up to Dominate and nobody knows it better the Mr Man Bun, time to get yo ass ready for training camp Mr Rodgers, vacation is over bra!

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Coldworld's picture

July 17, 2021 at 10:01 am

Your point about helping the D is an excellent one. Not blaming Rodgers or excusing DCs, but Packers Defenses have too often been visibly ground down since Green’s glory days. MM’s commitment to the run was always transient.

In parallel, that kind of running game also helps O lines too. For all that I liked Williams, he didn’t scare teams into planning for him. Dillon will after Tennessee and more so if a team gets punished for neglecting him. Throw in Jones’ elusiveness and that’s a massive headache and one that should give Tampa type Ds fits. Can LaFleur learn to harness that? It may help him if that’s the starting mindset.

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HawkPacker's picture

July 17, 2021 at 11:53 am

I agree with your thinking CW.

I further believe that to have a great running game you also have to have a great quarterback which Rodgers certainly is. The defense has to respect the passing game and not stack the box.

The running game with Rodgers at QB should flourish.

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Rossonero's picture

July 18, 2021 at 07:19 am

Well said - and gave me a laugh this morning, thanks nostradanus!

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porupack's picture

July 17, 2021 at 07:24 am

Very clear and concise points, Mr. Cory. Very hard to argue with this. GB got one dimensional for years and defenses stymied Rodgers/McCarthy game plan for a long time. What MLF/Gute have done to address a number of multi-year team weaknesses as recent as 3 years ago, includes the RB position group and running game and the TE group. What I really like is 1) that GB brings new guys in slowly, and ensures that there is strong mentoring and cohesiveness in place. Look how Tonyan and multiple OL players are slowly coached up and developed (plenty of exceptions however, such as Bahk and Jenkins if their talent is so obvious). So Dillon is a great example, just being mentored behind the Jones/Williams show. 2) the Gute/MLF favor roster selections weighted by superior blocking skills in their talent evaluation, and seem to be right that 10 above average blockers will win the game both in the passing or running attack. (I'm not suggesting you just recruit the best sled pushers, but that superior blocking is a GB strategy under the MLF-Gute regime). Lewis, Deguara, Lazard, Williams, Jones, MVS, Adams....all blockers. Other talent slow to be inserted: Dillon, Tonyan, and a bunch of WRs until they learned to block. All those experienced blockers are going to support Cory's theory of a better-yet running game this year.

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stockholder's picture

July 17, 2021 at 07:34 am

Yes, you do need a running game. And yes, we have the guys to make it "better". But Remember John Brockington and McArthur Lane. They got them to the playoffs. But more was needed! Lombardi had a great running game too. But he still needed a great QB! And a Defense! I don't agree with taking the ball out of your QBs hands. The secondary is so weak in todays NFL. A balanced attack is the right move. But it's just not all gas when you want to win. Forget the chess match. Torch the field.

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fastmoving's picture

July 17, 2021 at 08:09 am

WE see you know as much about chess than about football. No suprise here.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

July 17, 2021 at 09:46 am

Lot of contradictions in this post!

You do say however a balanced attack is necessary, which I agree with. Meaning....on all three team units. Defense, offense, and special teams all require talent and some balance. If really strong in one of the three the team is unlikely to win a SB. To achieve a high level of balance on these three units there also needs to be some semblance of cap balance with these three team units.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 17, 2021 at 11:46 am

It is a play-action driven offense.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 17, 2021 at 11:45 am

The QB delivers the Big Plays when it's crunch time. Until proven otherwise, this defense is soft.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

July 17, 2021 at 07:54 am

Without question the running game will be better barring injuries. Our OL will likely be bigger and stronger in 2021. Dillon is an upgrade over William's (Mr. Reliable). The backup running backs seemingly are far superior to what the team has had in recent years. I am excited about Kylin Hill and Patrick Taylor. If they both turn out to be as good as I think they are I hope the team figures out a way to keep both.

6 points
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Crankbait's picture

July 17, 2021 at 07:55 am

No defense, no SB title. Even when Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback.

11 points
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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

July 17, 2021 at 09:01 am

Agreed, but a good running game can seriously help run off the clock keeping opposing offenses off the field. How many times have we seen Mr. Wonderful in critical moments not get a 1st down in 3 attempts, and then the Packers have to kick the ball right back?

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 17, 2021 at 11:48 am

Mahomes produced how many TDs , how fast, against the # one defense in the 2020 SB?

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cheesehead1's picture

July 17, 2021 at 09:45 am

Defense still wins IMO, as Tampa proved last season. That’s been our achilles heal for the last decade. Hope Barry can take them to the next level.

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stockholder's picture

July 17, 2021 at 09:32 am

Defense is won in the trench first.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 17, 2021 at 11:49 am

Tampa is five to six deep up front.

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ricky's picture

July 17, 2021 at 09:52 am

Dillon had a terrific game against Tennessee. Which had the 24th ranked run defense in the league last season. Jamaal Williams proved he could run the ball effectively against a lot of teams. And he was a terrific blocker. And he caught the ball very well. So, I have hopes for Dillon, but until he proves he can do it regularly on the field, he remains an unknown with one good game against a very bad defense.

6 points
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CheesyTex's picture

July 17, 2021 at 01:39 pm

ricky,

I've had the same damn nagging thoughts. Also remember one play (vs. 49ers, I think) where he was welcomed to the NFL and absolutely stoned by a DT one-on-one -- had to walk off. In addition, one of the talking heads recently reminded about the many Adonis type bodies that couldn't cut it in the NFL.

Here's hoping Tennessee was the norm and not the outlier.

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Stroh's picture

July 18, 2021 at 03:33 pm

He had a couple receptions during the season that showed him to be a good receiver similiar to J Will. As for the blocking, that is about being physical or at least a willingness to be physical and knowing where to be and whom to block. That can be taught and Dillon is certainly very physical. Receiving and blocking don't concern me in the least.

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NickPerry's picture

July 17, 2021 at 09:55 am

I can't remember a season that I've looked forward to more than this season. The Packers are loaded and have the pieces in place. Each season under MLF the team has improved offensively and defensively. Thanks to an excellent coaching staff and an excellent job by Gute and the rest of his staff in the draft and FA, the Packers have built in 3 short years a deep well rounded team.

With a few 2 or 3 year jumps, and this team is going to be there and it ALL will start with the running game. I've said it before, I can't think of another time where I was so excited about a 2nd year player like I am Dillon. This dude is a SLEDGE HAMMER with some speed. The versatility in the RB room is better than any year I can remember, at least since Green and Davenport. My hope is they keep Taylor and Hill on the 53, now that's a RB room.

8 points
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Coldworld's picture

July 17, 2021 at 10:09 am

Dillon looks to be a different class of threat to Williams and, on paper, the ideal contrast to Jones. Dillon has a rare combination of speed, size and power. As a former rugby player, Jones’ ability to escape is a nightmare, but Dillon is a worse one because stopping him takes time (yards) but also saps you or worse. Dillon is a physical freak because he’s not only immensely powerful, he’s fast too. If he can stay healthy he will impact planning. If he can be adept in the passing game, he will be an absolute nightmare for DBs. There is a big difference between a competent runner and a potential game breaker. We should expect a drop off in blocking initially. But perhaps the H Back or other help with that.

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dobber's picture

July 17, 2021 at 10:21 am

Dillon is the kind of back I like to watch. He wears a defense down until nobody wants to take him on anymore.

He compares very well to Derrick Henry in so many ways except for height. Backs like Henry are always a threat, even when you're playing from behind or on 3rd and long, because he can break big runs at any time and he has a surprising number of long TD receptions (mostly catch and run plays). Dillon could very much be that guy...as much a I liked Jamaal Williams, he was never going to be that guy.

6 points
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dobber's picture

July 17, 2021 at 10:11 am

The offensive line is the key to everything. Stenavich had an answer for pretty much every OL issue in 2020, and the offense played very well. It gets more complicated with a rookie starter at C and your best young OL (Jenkins) playing out of position to cover for the loss of your all-world LT. I expect Bakhtiari will miss the first couple games, and that the offense will scuffle until he returns...and maybe for a game or two after that. I think this offense will look a lot different in November--and be much more efficient--than it will in September...and I don't think #12 will be the root cause of it (even though the media will jump on him).

6 points
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dekan51's picture

July 17, 2021 at 10:45 am

Interesting that you have Taylor written is as the # 3 back....

2 points
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jhtobias's picture

July 17, 2021 at 10:55 am

Im still kind of dumb founded with or without rodgers how this team can be taken serious as a super bowl contender with a below average dline and possibly one of the worst ilb groups in the league .

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Coldworld's picture

July 17, 2021 at 12:41 pm

Well, I suppose we were last year while possibly worse at both positions.

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dekan51's picture

July 17, 2021 at 01:07 pm

so w/AR, we have a NFCCG team, that should have won. i think we were the better team. we were not the better team a year a go against the 49ers. We did not get worse at ILB, only better. We did not get worse @ dline, only better. seems to me the only place one could make a case we are worse is Oline, because of Bakhtiari's uncertainty, but I think we will be solid there, too. AR vs Love is the true difference between SB contender and not.....

6 points
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CheesyTex's picture

July 17, 2021 at 01:57 pm

Umm -- does that mean you don't feel the loss of Corey Linsley hurts the OL? Or that the only change to the DL --adding Tedarrell Slaton in the fifth round -- makes the it "only better"?

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dekan51's picture

July 17, 2021 at 05:14 pm

forgot about Linsley, but everyone else is a year better/growth. and same with the Dline. Clark was hurt last season, so new addition and growth of young guys makes the Dline better....

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porupack's picture

July 18, 2021 at 07:05 am

what are you basing the Dline being below average, that is a ranking at 16 or worse..............?

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Stroh's picture

July 18, 2021 at 03:39 pm

Because the premium positions on Defense, the ones that impact games far more than other positions, are Pass Rusher and CB. In those areas the Packers are pretty deep and strong. Would I like another better DL than Lowry, Lancaster, Keke and Slaton? Absolutely but DL and interior DL is 3rd on the list of priorities on Defense.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

July 18, 2021 at 12:34 am

For you "Old Time" Packer fans, our A. J. Dillon reminds me of a running back who played over 40 years ago for the Houston Oilers named Earl Campbell. I had to look up the details, but he was 5'11" and 232 pounds and built like a tank and was renown for running over, through, and around defenses. He was a league MVP, three time offensive player of the year, multiple times an All Pro, and in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Plus he was named to the "All 100 Anniversary All Time Team".
That is a mighty high bar I would be setting for A.J., but he has Campbell by an inch and 15 pounds and is as physically gifted as Earl Campbell. I really like A.J.'s attitude and his one performance in the game against the modern day Houston team has me beaming with confidence and anticipation.

8 points
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Slim11's picture

July 18, 2021 at 08:41 am

I was riding in the back on a flight years ago and was sitting in first class next to Earl Campbell.

Given he was a Texas Longhorn and I come from a family of Texas Aggies, we had a fun conversation during the flight. One of his comments was the Aggies helped him win the Heisman Trophy.

The comparison between AJ Dillon and Campbell is fair. I see Dillon as a better receiver and faster than Campbell. I'm six feet tall and have 2-3 inches over Campbell. If Dillon takes over for Jones in the near future, I see him having a more productive career than Campbell.

2 points
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Ferrari-Driver's picture

July 18, 2021 at 01:50 pm

Wow, that had to be a thrill. They listed Campbell at 5'11" so maybe he lost a couple of inches from all the head on collisions with linebackers during his career. That had to be a "first class" experience worth a thumbs up.

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Stroh's picture

July 18, 2021 at 03:45 pm

Dillon might have a more productive career than Campbell, but Campbell was an absolute beast for about 4 yrs, before than punishment caught up to him. No one trucked LB in the way Campbell did. Dillon could be similar but the game is different and RB are now OK w/ stepping out of bounds and avoiding contact. Campbell never did that and it cost him a longer career.

1 points
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arizonayahoo07@gmail.com's picture

July 17, 2021 at 11:54 am

Arod better make the right decision.. GB is going to be a monster, with Arod back.. Jordan Love can learn more from the master. And next season if Rogers really wants out.. Then he will be traded to another team.. with Green bays Murphy/Gutie will have three first round picks. And plenty of monies to resign guys like Adams and Alexander...

2 points
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dekan51's picture

July 17, 2021 at 01:01 pm

his only 'right' decision is to play with the Pack this year....if he truly cares about winning.

2 points
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Tedlyflyfisher's picture

July 17, 2021 at 12:03 pm

I am so stoked for this year!

Cory, you say it’s a “passing heaving” league now? LOL!

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Stroh's picture

July 17, 2021 at 02:58 pm

The running game is not the reason Rodgers improved dramatically last year. Having a decent running game helped to some degree, but make no mistake Rodgers is THE reason the running game was so efficient! Rodgers did alot over the offseason to regain the leg strength and get his legs involved in his passing that made a big difference in accuracy and arm strength. Its important to understand that you throw as much w/ you legs as with your arm. Most of the power comes from the legs thru the core to the arm.

Defenses didn't play the Packers to stop the run, they played pass defense to stop Rodgers, which opened things up for the running game! The writer has it completely backwards!

5 points
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TarynsEyes's picture

July 17, 2021 at 03:20 pm

Read the memos that are in near every comment.

It's not correct or allowed to give credit to one who is now hated by the fans these days.

1 points
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porupack's picture

July 17, 2021 at 05:36 pm

You say we get to hate someone? Who we get to hate? Roger Goodall?

0 points
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Ferrari-Driver's picture

July 18, 2021 at 05:42 pm

I don't hate you and don't think anyone here does either. I read most of your posts and often time you present a different perspective that I have overlooked. Keep your chin up.

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Slim11's picture

July 18, 2021 at 08:58 am

Indirectly, you just said what I'm adding here.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, many teams believed running the ball set up the success of the passing game...and that's not wrong. But so many teams did this and became more predictable in the process. During his time in Green Bay, QB Randy Wright had to convince Bart Starr (when he was the HC) to pass the ball to set up the run. It worked for a couple of games.

Today, teams have be equally adept at both and I believe MLF has proven to be just that. Go back to 2017 and look at how ineffective the running game was because there was no consistent threat from the passing game with Brett Hundley at QB. McCarthy was foolish not to utilize Aaron Jones and we know that. Compare that team to the 2019-2020 teams and the team we expect going into the 2021 season.

Your comment about throwing the ball with power from the legs through the core is 110% right.

2 points
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Stroh's picture

July 18, 2021 at 05:02 pm

The legs also have a large impact on accuracy, not just throwing w/ power. All those Biomechanics and kinesiology classes are still paying off.

LaFluer has been more committed to the run than McCarthy, however during McCarthy's last years you have to wonder how much that was Rodgers since he complete autonomy to change plays. With LaFluer he has some, but not nearly as much.

Utilizing Jones has improved but some of that is the fact Jones has stayed healthier even w/ an increase workload. His body wasn't NFL ready is yrs 1 and 2 under McCarthy.

1 points
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Rossonero's picture

July 18, 2021 at 07:22 am

Don't forget about late round 2021 pick Kylin Hill either. I thought he was a terrific pick for the value and already showed he could perform at a high level in the SEC and also catch passes out of the backfield in his final year, even though he ultimately left early due to a disagreement with the coach. It's possible he makes the team and Patrick Taylor gets sent to the practice squad.

I think what Cory's getting at is that we can control the clock. As much as I agree with his point about keeping defenses honest to respect the run and pass, it's about time of possession - which the Packers tended to dominate last year. We've seen other teams try to do this to us too: control the clock and simply keep Rodgers off the field.

2 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

July 18, 2021 at 02:51 pm

Get the Lead, then control the clock.

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MTmind's picture

July 18, 2021 at 09:54 am

I’m so excited to see this current group (including coaches) play together. I believe we’ll see number of 2nd and 3rd year players on both sides of the ball improve dramatically. Really have my fingers crossed that Rodgers will be back. This could play out to be a very special year!

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