Running back A.J. Dillon is all in with the Green Bay Packers. The 2021 season didn’t end the way Dillon or the Packers wanted, but the big, bruising running back is ready to put the disappointment of the playoff loss behind him and use it to motivate him for the future.
Dillon has everything it takes to be Green Bay’s X-factor in 2022 and beyond, and he’s ready to take the Packers back up the mountain.
A.J. Dillon wasn’t the Green Bay Packers most popular draft pick
General manager Brian Gutekunst drafted Dillon in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft (pick 62) and many of his critics weren’t pleased. After all, the Packers already had Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams on the roster. They also seemingly had draft needs outside of running back. At the moment, drafting Dillon seemed like a luxury pick for a team with legitimate needs, especially because the Packers drafted a quarterback, Jordan Love, the night before.
Still, Gutekunst saw that Dillon had the raw tools and size to be the type of physical, downhill running back that could thrive in Matt LaFleur’s system, so the Pack took a flyer on the Boston College product.
His rookie season saw him third on the depth chart behind Jones and Williams, so he didn’t get to flash much. Williams became a free agent in 2021 and ended up with the Detroit Lions, which opened up room on the depth chart for Dillon to play the Robin to Jones’ Batman. The thunder to his lightning.
Dillon came into the 2021 season looking big, nasty, and ready to run some people over, and he delivered.
Dillon had a breakout season in 2021
Jones was still the lead back in Green Bay in terms of billing, but Dillon quickly carved out an essential role in Green Bay’s offense, and he became the 1B to Jones’ 1A. In fact, when all was said and done, the two running backs were extremely even in touches and Dillon actually out-produced the veteran running back. Jones rushed 171 times for 799 yards and four touchdowns. Dillon was given 187 carries, and he turned that into 803 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
The Packers developed a beautiful symmetry in the backfield, and Dillon was a massive reason for that. Just when defenses would get used to Jones’ explosive and shifty running style, the Packers would switch it up and get Dillon running north and south. The number of defenders he dragged for yards after contact was many. He would just lower his shoulders and churn his feet, and they had no choice but to hang on for the ride.
For such a powerful runner, Dillon also became a surprisingly good pass-catcher. He caught 34 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns out of the backfield.
“Catching the ball out of the backfield, you want to be diverse and versatile, especially someone his size and stature,” Jones said, explaining Dillon’s pass-catching ability to the team website. “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.”
Dillon is ready for a comeback tour in 2022
Dillon has embraced Green Bay and, specifically, Door County, which is the peninsula of land between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Don’t believe it? Just check out his key to the county, which he was awarded for his “ongoing love” of the area.
With that in mind, it makes sense that he took the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers personally. After all, he’s a dedicated local, and people basically live and breathe off the Packers in Wisconsin.
Green Bay had all the makings of a Super Bowl squad, so to say that the team underwhelmed in the playoffs would be a huge understatement. This was a roster that had what it took to bring another Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay. Instead, Dillon and his teammates will be watching the Super Bowl just like the rest of us.
They’re also heading into a highly uncertain offseason where the Packers are projected to be almost $50 million dollars over the salary cap. Speaking of expectations, change is one of them. One of those changes could involve Aaron Rodgers no longer being the quarterback in Green Bay
No matter what happens, though, Dillon, who is signed through the 2023 season, has promised that he’s going to use the disappointment of the 2021 season to propel both him and the Packers into the future.
“Personally, I’ve never been more motivated in my life now to go and win a Super Bowl,” he said. “I don’t know when it’s going to happen, where it’s going to happen, what it’s going to look like or how we’re going to get there, but as long as I’m here with the Green Bay Packers, that’s going to be my No. 1 motivator going forward.”
Dillon has been and will continue to be an X-factor on the field for the Packers, but he projects to be just as important to the roster and locker room moving forward.
Heading into a time of uncertainty, Dillon sounds ready to spearhead the comeback.