I’ve seen at least 17 blog posts, tweet graphics, and even tiktok videos addressing the Packers poor receiver room for the upcoming season. Even if the team signs Julio Jones next week, you can’t expect them to have a wide receiver and tight end corps ranked in the top 20. Lost in that is just how elite the team’s running back duo is. Both Jones and Dillon could be impact, pro-bowl level starters.
Both backs can excel inside the tackles, running wide zone, under center and out of the shotgun, in pass protection, and in the receiving game. They obviously have weaknesses, but they can do everything at an average level and many things at an elite level. The problem: most of the time only one of them is on the field. Today, I want to look at a few ways that the offense can get both backs on the field at the same time.
I doubt we’ll see any old school under center split back formations but get ready for a lot of shotgun split back with both Jones and Dillon.
With this formation, either running back can motion into the slot, hip, or into the flat as the ball is snapped. Either can block for the other directly in an iso run or in split zone.
The Packers killed the Rams with this formation in the playoffs a few years ago. Good luck defending downhill AJ Dillon runs with a light box while Aaron Jones is sprinting into the flat at the snap.
AJ Dillon as H-Back
The first thing many Packers fans did for the last two years in Madden was make AJ Dillon the fullback. No NFL team has a ton of fullback runs, but there is plenty of opportunity in the passing game.
Really, I doubt this will happen much where Dillon is lined up as a full back in a true I formation. But We could see funky formations where Dillon is an h-back to the strong side or motions to lead block for Dillon. He certainly has the size for it and has shown the ability to lead block. The question is whether a potential star running back is willing to put on a neck pad and do the dirty work.
The way you make it work is by designing play action routes for him. He’s got enough downhill speed to separate from linebackers on leak routes. He can be the flat guy in a flood concept and murder any corner trying to tackle him. You can even have him run a Texas route from the fullback spot without play action. Don’t use him as a lead blocker because he’s a good lead blocker; put him in that spot to get him more unique matchups.
Aaron Jones in the slot
Last year, Nate Hackett mentioned in passing that when they were designing the team’s offense in his first offseason, Jones was going to be the number one jet sweep guy. He would get the jet sweeps play, but also go in jet motion on plenty of downhill zone runs to move the linebackers. Jones just got so good so quickly that it didn’t make sense to take him out of the backfield.
Now, AJ Dillon can be as effective a runner as Jones, it’s time to get Jones back in the slot. Use him on jet motion and sweeps, but also use him as the screen guy on RPOs, running choice routes, even toasting linebackers with slot fades.
Jones had the route running, agility, and catching ability to be a starting slot receiver. Make the defense worry about what he’s going to do in the slot up until Dillon runs them over.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.