GREEN BAY – Potential became production in 2021, as AJ Dillon took the Year 2 step everyone associated with the Packers hoped the former second-round pick would.
Jamaal Williams’ departure in free agency pushed Dillon into a more prominent role in Green Bay’s offense this past season and the 6-foot, 247-pound running back was up to the challenge.
Out of the backfield, Dillon racked up a team-high 803 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 187 carries (4.3 yards per attempt), but it was Dillon’s success as a pass-catcher that proved just how far he’s come as an every-down back.
His 34 catches for 313 yards and two TDs in 17 regular-season games trumped the 21 receptions for 236 yards and two TDs Dillon had in 35 games over three seasons at Boston College.
When asked in which area Dillon grew the most in his second NFL season, veteran running back Aaron Jones first mentioned his teammate’s improvements as a pass protector before bringing it back to the receiving game.
“Catching the ball out of the backfield, you want to be diverse and versatile, especially someone his size and stature,” Jones said. “When (Dillon) gets in the game they might load the box, they might say, ‘Oh, they’re going to run the ball.’ But no, he can catch the ball out of the backfield, too.”
Admittedly, looking back on an encouraging second NFL season was difficult for Dillon to do in the aftermath of Green Bay’s 13-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional playoffs two weeks ago.
Beyond the disappointing result, Dillon also sustained a fractured rib as a blocker on kickoff returns in the third quarter and was sidelined for the remainder of the game.
Dillon enjoyed the one-two punch he formed with Jones, though. The two became the first pair of Packers running backs to each have at least 1,100 yards from scrimmage in the same season since John Brockington and MacArthur Lane in 1972.