How Will The Packers' RB Trio Fare in 2024?

When Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst drafted power running back A.J. Dillon in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, it was expected by many that Dillon and Aaron Jones, now with the Minnesota Vikings, would form a lightning-and-thunder duo in the backfield, keeping defenses on their toes for years to come. While Dillon certainly had flashes during his first four seasons in the NFL, the lightning-and-thunder duo never fully came to fruition, relative to expectations. This offseason, Gutekunst took another stab to pair a power back and a change-of-pace back together by signing running back Josh Jacobs in free agency and drafting MarShawn Lloyd in the third round of the 2024 NFL Draft, while also retaining Dillon on a one-year deal. How do you think they will fare this season? 

Jacobs, who spent the first five years of his career with the Oakland and Las Vegas Raiders, is two seasons removed from being crowned the league’s rushing leader, a year in which he amassed over 1,650 rushing yards on 340 carries (4.9 yards per carry) for 12 touchdowns. He also chipped in 400 receiving yards. And since entering the league in 2019, the Alabama product is second in rushing yards (5,545). However, the 2022 first-team All-Pro honoree took a step back last season, producing career lows in per-carry average (3.5), total rushing yards (805), and rushing touchdowns (6). Yes, he only played in 13 games, but his yards-per-game average was still the second-worst of his career (61.9).

Yet, when looking beyond the surface, those figures should not make one automatically jump to the conclusion that the Packers are welcoming a past-his-prime player to the backfield. For instance, the Raiders were 11th in ESPN’s Run Block Win Rate in 2022 but dropped to 18th in 2023. Jacobs also did not participate in the team’s offseason program or training camp due to a contract holdout, a further potential explanation for his lackluster final season in Sin City. 

So what exactly are the Packers getting in Jacobs? A bell-cow back, undoubtedly. He averaged 20.6 touches per game over the last five seasons and was second in total rushing attempts, with 1,305, in the entire league over that span. Jones, meanwhile, averaged 16.4 touches over that same period, including 963 total rushing attempts, good for ninth among running backs. With the way the running back room is currently constructed, though, Jacobs won’t be expected to shoulder the entire burden of the team’s run game in 2024. 

“Philosophically, no matter who the runner is, typically, we like to platoon those guys, whether it’s two guys or three guys,” head coach Matt LaFleur said, according to NBC’s Pro Football Talk. “I just think it allows the running backs to stay fresh throughout the duration of the season. It’s a very violent position they play, and some of those hits are high-impact hits. . . . Then, when it gets down to the end of it, you’ve got to roll with whoever you feel gives you the best opportunity to win games. But I do think there’s a lot of benefit to having multiple runners in there. No. 1, I think it lengthens their careers.”

Lloyd is far from a finished product, so it remains to be seen exactly how many carries he will see throughout the 2024 season. (Dillon, for the sake of comparison, received 46 carries as the third back during his rookie year, finishing with 242 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Jamaal Williams, the team’s RB2 in 2020, registered 119 carries for 505 yards.) But rest assured, LaFleur will find ways to utilize the USC product’s skill set, which is a mix of power and speed. At 5-foot-9, 220 pounds, he registered a 40-yard dash time of 4.46 and averaged 7.1 yards per carry a season ago, while ranking 9th in missed tackles forced per attempt and 24th in yards after contact per attempt among qualified running backs since 2022

Altogether, a strong, productive run game is one of a quarterback’s best friends, and that is especially the case in LaFleur’s offense, which likes to keep defenses honest through heavy play action

“I honestly think the sky is the limit in this offense,” Jacobs told NFL Network earlier this month.

 

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Rex is a lifelong Packers fan but was sick of the cold, so he moved to the heart of Cowboys country. Follow him on Twitter (@Sheild92) and Instagram (@rex.sheild). 

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Comments (17)

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Johnblood27's picture

July 08, 2024 at 02:24 pm

As mentioned in the lede concerning Jacobs in LV last season, the OL will have a great deal of influence on how the running game productivity plays out.

That , along with the diverse skills offered by the GB RB room, would lead me to believe that the production should be very good indeed. The GB OL is in a nice place for both run blocking and pass blocking right now. The maturation of the parts into a cohesive whole by last seasons end will hopefully carry over to this season along with some depth additions through player acquisitions as well as player development. There is a reason why there has been so much development going on in the GB OL room the past 2-3 years, this is not a veteran group outside of the steady Jenkins.

Its going to be a very good year for the GB offense and the defense will not be far behind as the new scheme and culture takes hold and matures.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 08, 2024 at 04:09 pm

Well, we're a passing team. We've got a nice shiny QB and a whole bunch of receivers that can get down the field and into the endzone. I wouldn't anticipate that we'll actually run more and pass less.

Last season, we had 581 pass attempts and 441 rush attempts. 441 attempts divided by 17 games That's about 26 attempts each game. About 6 of those runs will be for first downs.

The Packers aren't going to go Ground Chuck; that's not how they're designed to go. We'll run enough to keep teams honest, and we'll protect the ball, but I don't see the mix changing by much, and I'd rather throw one more pass than hand it off one more time to the RB, because you get more yards and points through the air, and because the Packers are built to throw it.

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Bitternotsour's picture

July 08, 2024 at 04:20 pm

if there are additional run attempts it will be closing out games that we got ahead in by passing. I'd be delighted seeing 8 minute drives at the end of the game (provided we have the ball)

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Leatherhead's picture

July 08, 2024 at 04:41 pm

I'd prefer to see a 4 minute drive that ends in a TD.

Kind of like the Dallas game. The Cowboys couldn't catch up because we just kept scoring.

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LLCHESTY's picture

July 08, 2024 at 10:59 pm

It was the least amount of carries since 2019 and tied for the worst yards per carry since LaFleur took over. It's not the numbers but the efficiency I care about and Jacobs career YPC is a little worrisome. Just as important as the team YPC is converting 2nd and 3 and 3rd and 1 or 2.

6 of the top 8 scoring teams were also 6 of the top 8 rushing teams. It pays to remember that the super high powered passing offenses rarely win Super Bowls.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 09, 2024 at 10:48 am

The Top 8 scoring teams all made the playoffs, and they were all good passing teams.

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Packwillie's picture

July 09, 2024 at 08:40 am

I agree it will be pass first, though time of possession might be better this year. Here's my stab at rushes/yards:
Jacobs 260/1150
Lloyd 110/525
Dillon 40/125
Wilson 20/80 (injury callups)

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stockholder's picture

July 08, 2024 at 04:42 pm

What are the packers getting w/Jacobs? -
I say a Loan.
What are the packers getting with Loyd?
A guy to sit the bench for 2 years.
What do the packers have w/Dillion?
A guy who has reached his potential.
The Sky isn't the limit.
The super-Bowl is.
My best response to this is:
Don't fumble the Ball!

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packer132's picture

July 08, 2024 at 06:39 pm

Thanks Captain Obvious.
P.S. Lloyd will not sit for two years and have a very nice 2024 season.

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GregC's picture

July 08, 2024 at 08:14 pm

The author describes Jacobs and Lloyd as a pairing of a power back and a change-of-pace back, but are they really all that different? Funny that the highlight that was chosen for Lloyd shows off his power.

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LLCHESTY's picture

July 08, 2024 at 11:26 pm

My hope is Lloyd rips off a 30 yard run in the 1st two or three games. The offense could go from good to really damn fun in a hurry. Lloyd, Musgrave and Watson on the field at the same time? Defenses might as well wave the white flag.

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mnbadger's picture

July 08, 2024 at 08:26 pm

The author never defined who "the trio" will be?
I see E Wilson starting the season as #2 and finishing #3 behind Jacob's and Lloyd.
GPG!

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GregC's picture

July 08, 2024 at 09:36 pm

That's Wilson in the picture with Jacobs at the top of the article, but almost everybody thinks A.J. Dillon will beat him out for a roster spot. I would like to see Wilson at least make things interesting in training camp.

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T7Steve's picture

July 09, 2024 at 06:02 am

The thing deciding who the #2 and 3 (#4?) backs will be pass protection and scheme / D recognition.

That and injury was the only thing holding Wilson back last season.

Dillon was a good receiver, but I think that's far down the list, wouldn't you?

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BuckyBadger's picture

July 09, 2024 at 12:10 am

I never get too excited about a RB who is coming off a down year and had a monster one the year before. RBs can wear out fast and Bama backs can have a been like Wisconsin backs in that way. Jacobs didn't get a ton of usage at Bama. His Jr year he got a 140 touches but only 99 and 60 is Fr and So years. If he stays healthy he should be an upgrade and Jones ran the ball well. I just rewatched that SF game and Jones played well.

Lloyd was a 5 star prospect out of H.S. and might have been a top prospect if it wasn't for the ACL tear. Took a full year to come back 100% but he might be a guy who is ready to take carries from Jacobs by years end. RBs can come on quick and he has been in a pass first offense. If he can block he can be an every down back sooner then some think.

I hope AJ gets beat out. He is slow and not that hard to bring down. Fan favorite but Wilson should get every chance to win the roster spot. Jacobs is a better power back than AJ and I think Wilson would be a better early down option if injuries riddle the depth chart.

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Matt's picture

July 09, 2024 at 05:02 am

"Jones, meanwhile, averaged 16.4 touches over that same period, including 963 total rushing attempts, good for ninth among running backs."

And for all the years I heard how Jones was spared and other RBs used heavily. Yes, maybe 8 of them.

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GregC's picture

July 09, 2024 at 07:41 am

I was also surprised that Jones ranked so high in number of carries, but I think it's mostly because running backs have such short careers. There just aren't many others who were in their prime during that entire time period.

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