Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are Going to Make History This Year

The best running back tandem in the NFL will not be denied the records they seek

Aaron Jones, the leader of the Packers' running back room (YouTube, Sports Productions)

Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are in position to put together the greatest statistical season of any tandem in the history Green Bay Packers.

We think they will.

Earlier this week we wrote about how the Packers’ defense has the ability to be truly elite. We find neither of these prognostications hyperbolic.

What’s the best way to support a dominant defense?

Give them ample rest by running the ball.  Move the chains, shorten the game and bleed the clock. We said this in our last piece, but this team won’t have to score 30 points to win in 2022.

These Green Bay Packers will be all about ball control and owning the time of possession.

Of course, establishing the run sets up the reigning two-time AP MVP quarterback to do what he does best: throw touchdowns while not throwing interceptions. We of course speak of Aaron Rodgers, the Packers’ four-time AP MVP.

The Packers’ offense is going to look a lot different in 2022, obviously. Davante Adams is gone and the ball will be spread around. The team will rely on running backs more than it has in Aaron Rodgers’ entire tenure in Green Bay. Good thing this offense has the horses to do just that.

Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon made history last year. They became the first running back duo in team history to each put up 1,000+ total yards and 6+ touchdowns in the same season.

A New Franchise Record

This year, we see them combining for at least 3,000 total yards and 25 total touchdowns. That is, with each of them above the 1,300 yard mark and each above the 10 touchdown plateau — perfectly balanced.

That would be an astonishing feat, but it’s one we truly believe in. They’re a hungry tandem and many factors have aligned for this to become a possibility.

Without a doubt that would be the best season in Packers history for a running back duo, but the records wouldn’t end there.

Lets take it a step further, why not? If they both score 12+ touchdowns this year, that’ll be the first time it’s been done in Packers history. The first time two backs both scored 11+ touchdowns in the same season was in the 1960s.

We bet you can guess who those two backs were (if you can’t, don’t worry we do detail that later).

The history of this franchise at the running back position is vast and Jones is quickly climbing the all-time ranks.

If Jones rushes for ‘just’ 1,000 yards and ‘just’ 10 touchdowns in 2022, he’ll find himself alone in 3rd place all-time in Packers history in both rushing yards & rushing touchdowns.

He’ll trail only Jim Taylor and Ahman Green in both categories.

No. 33 would pass legendary names like Tony Canadeo, John Brockington, and Paul Hornung along the way.

Jones is clearly already an all-time great. And the crazy part is, Dillon might be his equal in 2022. He is that special of a back. There is real a chance they could top 3,000 yards together this year.

Savor this tandem this year, folks. They can do it all and it won’t last forever.

Jones is the back to run past defenders and Dillon is the back to run through defenders. However Jones is stronger than most realize and Dillon is faster than most realize. As far as a duo, you cannot build one better than them in the modern NFL.

Pass Catching Backs

Anyone who follows the Packers knows that Aaron Jones is an effective pass-catching running back. Both down the field and in swing and dump-off routes. But getting AJ Dillon the ball in space and allowing him to catch the ball while going one-on-one with the nearest defender could be one of this offense’s top weapons this year. Once his confidence grows as a pass catcher, look out.

Last week Aaron Rodgers said he could see both of them with 50+ receptions. They really could control the offense both on the ground and through the air.

We see them combining for at least 115 receptions.

This wouldn’t be the first time two Packers running backs combined for 100+ receptions (we dive into this below).

But if they hit 110 receptions, they’ll set the all-time record for receptions by running back teammates in a single season in Packers history.

Jones would likely lead the duo, potentially by a wide margin, but Dillon could definitely hit the 50 reception mark, too, as Rodgers suggested. He caught 34 passes last year. Jones caught 52 balls. And remember, this was with Davante Adams netting 169 targets. That’s a lot of balls to find other people’s hands this year.

Plus, this will be the first season in which there are packages that feature both backs playing at the same time. There will be so many opportunities this year.

We hope to see the return of the occasional jet sweep this year, with Jones in motion. Taking advantage of Jones’ versatility will be a key cog for this offense, especially because Dillon can take advantage of that attention. Dillon can be the more traditional back in those situations.

In fact, it wouldn’t shock us if Jones is used as a legitimate wide receiver type of player at times. His fly routes require a cornerback to defend, but often times teams will put a linebacker on him. That spells trouble for the opposing defense.

He can line up and run legitimate routes; what a gift for this offense.

Dillon has grown as a pass catcher in his two years as a Packer, too. Having Jones to learn from doesn’t hurt. Coming out of the draft Dillon was docked by some for not catching many passes in college. What was once a criticism of his game could soon be one of his defining traits.

How This Will Happen

The Packers have a lot of target to make up for after losing Davante Adams. But it goes much deeper than that. A philosophical change has seemingly unfolded at 1265 Lombardi Ave.

Green Bay’s new-look offense, despite familiar terminology, will feature more creativity in scheming guys open. At least, that’s what we envision. If both guys are come out of the backfield and into the flats that will absolutely freeze linebackers and safeties.

Which guy does the defender angle toward?

Does he shade toward the faster one that could beat your defense deep? Or does he go to cover the one he’d hate to see build up a head of steam?

This wrinkle alone will result in so many more balls thrown to backs this year. Beyond that, Rodgers has seemingly come around to checking down more often. This keeps the chains moving and him upright.

Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are poised to put together the greatest receiving season in franchise history.

We can’t say exactly how many receptions, yards and touchdowns some of the earliest backs in Packers history recorded. It’s possible that Johnny Blood and Verne Lewellen put together a season worthy of inclusion here. However, the stats just weren’t reliably kept; we simply don’t know.

Here’s what history says about the greatest receiving seasons by running back duos in Packers history.

Running Back Duo, Total Receptions:

Dorsey Levens and Edgar Bennett’s all-time high of total receptions in a season is 109 (1995). A ‘wow’ number, to be sure.

Eddie Lee Ivery and Gerry Ellis caught 98 balls between them in 1980. They remain one of the most underrated duos in team history.

Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung’s career high of total receptions in a season is 47 (1964). Lower than we’d have guessed, to be honest.

John Brockington and Donny Anderson also combined for 47 receptions in 1972 (their all-time career high as a duo).

Aaron Jones surpassed that number in 2021 by himself.

Note: These aren’t all of the running back duos that we could have mentioned. We just started with some of the most prominent tandems.

Ahman Green was a fantastic pass catching running back, one of the best in team history. However he never had a back with him to complete a legitimate tandem.

Running Back Duo, Total Touchdowns:

Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung’s all-time high of total touchdowns in a season is 26 touchdowns (1960, 1961 and 1962). Yes, they accomplished this number three years in a row. Kind of wild. They both hit 10+ touchdowns in the same season twice. Remember, in 1960 seasons were only 12 games long. In ’61 and ’62 the NFL played 14 games.

Dorsey Levens and Edgar Bennett’s career high of total touchdowns in a season is 14 touchdowns (1995). They combined for 13 touchdowns the following year.

Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon combined for 17 touchdowns in 2021.

They are already bumping shoulders with these all-time great running back tandems in Packers lore.

They’ve already put together one of the greatest seasons in Packers running back history. Imagine what they could accomplish this year. Dillon is fully an NFL back now. This is his third season, he knows exactly how to exist (and thrive) in this league. His ‘next step’ should scare all defenders in the NFL.

Jones has reached a new level of his career, too. He’ll be wearing a ‘C’ this fall.

Captain Jones

Aaron Jones has just been named a captain for the Packers, the first time in his career. He’s one of the most respected players on the team. Both by his teammates and by the general public.

We tweeted this after Jones was announced a captain for the Packers this year:

Aaron Jones represents the Green Bay Packers so well. He works hard, he’s humble… but he also plays the game with a snark and swagger. He honors his family and gives back to the community. Oh and he’s an all-time great Packer RB, too. He is, in every way, captain material.

We mean every word.

Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are two of the most likable players in Green Bay. Jones has proven he’s a great guy year after year and Dillon has quickly built a reputation as the ‘mayor of Green Bay.’ He’s always eating at local establishments and talking about how much he loves Door County. I mean, he was even handed the key to Door County.

But they’re not just great guys, they’re great running backs. We might be on the precipice of witnessing the greatest season in Packers history for a running back tandem. And this is a franchise that put together a dynasty with Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung in the backfield. Yeah.

That is how statistically incredible these two were last year and how historically great we’re expecting them to be this year.

We can’t wait to watch them chase the record books.

Their dominance paired with Aaron Rodgers’ mastery of the offense and a potentially elite defense? Don’t get us started on how great this team can be. The offensive line is great and, hopefully, getting healthy once again.

It’s true we don’t know, but if the Packers let Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon lead the offense, which will continually burn the clock away, and the defense lives up to its potential..?

It could be a very special season in Titletown, USA.

And if we are correct, and this duo takes the next step forward statistically, then Brian Gutekunst, the Packers’ general manager, will be proven right again.

He stuck his neck out to draft AJ Dillon in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft when most talking heads said it was a reach.

He stuck his neck out to re-sign Aaron Jones to a four-year contract in 2021 when everyone was shouting “don’t pay running backs.”

Gutekunst followed his plan and these two huge decisions seem to be paying off. And those decisions could pay off all the way to the Super Bowl and some franchise records along the way.

 

Go Pack Go!

Note: The big caveat here is, if they stay healthy. That big if is the caveat with all football predictions. However we’re including it here to bypass the inevitable “gotcha” comments and tweets if one of them gets injured.

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We seek to bring more context to, and share interesting stores about, the history of the Green Bay Packers and the NFL as a whole. Clickbait be damned. "We" are Daniel and David Zillmer; hit the about or contact to learn more.

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