**Disclaimer: This is NOT AJ Dillon slander**
Earlier this year AJ Dillon was all the hype for Packers fans. As the third year back got ready for his third season, hopes were high that he would make yet another jump in his abilities and catapult himself into the groups of elite running backs. After all, he was the highest rating running back by PFF in 2021 with a grade of 90.1. However through three games, it is abundantly clear he is not (yet) on the same level as Aaron Jones.
Let’s look at the numbers first.
AJ Dillon has by no means been ineffective. He has run the ball exactly 40 times for 138, averaging out to 3.45 yards per carry. In the air, Dillon has caught 8 of his 12 targets for 58 yards, bringing him to 4.83 yards per catch.
These are good, productive numbers, especially when one considers he is often in there to play the role of banging up the defensive line and plowing forward instead of popping a big play.
Now, we go to Jones..
Aaron Jones is on a mission. He has run the ball only 32 times for 217 yards, giving him a yards per carry of a whopping 6.78 (sheesh). Combine that with his 76 yards from just 9 catches on 12 targets and he almost doubles Dillon’s yards per catch at 8.44.
The stats leave nothing to the imagination. Aaron jones has been practically TWICE as productive on his touches as AJ Dillon has. But, as we all know, football is not played on the stat sheet.
If you look at eye test, that is arguably where the concern comes in, specifically in the run game.
Though his stats don’t jump on the sheet in the pass game, his awareness and connection with Rodgers is obvious. Multiple times Dillon has shown his ability to pick up the blitz as a protector, or know where to go for Rodgers to check it down under pressure. At most he can be credited with one drop against Tampa, and that would have been a tough catch.
The run game is what I have had pause about. His numbers aren’t great, but that is not what worries me. He is a bruiser and is often brought specifically to put his head down and bruise them. But if you watch Dillon run, you see something that isn’t there with Jones – indecisiveness.
Jones is a zone-scheme running back dream. As soon as he see a hole, he puts his foot down and hits it hard, swerving his way forward with his unnatural acceleration and balance. Dillon is a bowling ball that sometimes looks like he doesn’t know where the pins are.
On short yardage he is fantastic. He knows exactly what he has to do. He puts his head down and bowls over whoever gets in his way. But on first down or long yardage plays, sometimes he appears to not know whether to try to pop a run to the outside or just put his head down for a couple yards. He occasionally misses blocking and holes that could spring him for serious yardage because he is just trying to get downfield.
Aaron Jones sees blocking happening in real time and quickly adapts to it. I don’t know if I have ever seen him miss a hole or an opportunity to bounce one to the outside. He is the absolute full package and Green Bay’s unquestionable RB1.
Dillon should improve as the year goes on and our blocking gets better. Due to his north-south running, he is much better with defenders on their heels and him able to get momentum than he is at being able to make people miss him in the backfield like Jones-y. He also will benefit from the cold as we have seen in the past as he punishes the defenders late in the game as those poor men are ready to go home ang get warm.
But he is not Aaron Jones. That is who the offense needs to run through and who needs more touches. I know we want to keep him fresh, but I say we lean on Jones now and let Dillon take over as the temperatures start to drop and this O-line continues to come alive.
Then we win.
PJ is an Ohio native who was fortunate enough to be born into the green and gold family through his father who grew up in Green Bay. He now resides in NYC where he is an avid fan and fantasy football player. You can follow him on twitter at @PJsPack_.
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