Green Bay's backfield became thinner by one contributor this offseason, yet a returning runner believes that might open the door for the formation of a premier tandem.
Second-year running back A.J. Dillon sounded rather bullish on his team's chances this season, specifically in regard to the Packers' rushing attack. Following the departure of Jamaal Williams via free agency, Dillon sees a greater role for himself, which he believes could give opposing defenses fits.
"I think we can be the best running back tandem in the NFL," Dillon said Wednesday. "You look at us and you see thunder and lightning, which absolutely we are, but the lightning guy, Aaron (Jones), he can also grind out some yards, and the thunder guy, myself, I'd like to say I can still beat some guys running away from them. So I feel like we both definitely have our strengths, but we bring two bags, and the entire running back room is capable of guys that can do it all. That's just the standard in the running back room. That's what coach (Ben) Sirmans preached, being able to do it all, being able to find a role on the team. So I feel like we definitely embody that."
Dillon had a quiet rookie season until late in the campaign, when the runner who had previously only carried the ball a maximum of five times in a game received 21 attempts and averaged 5.9 yards per rush while scoring two touchdowns in a 40-14 win over Tennessee at Lambeau Field. The third running back on the depth chart -- but leading power option -- finally saw enough playing time to make a difference, lifting his spirits heading into a season in which he'll be expected to shoulder a larger load with Williams gone.
"The Tennessee game, definitely, I look back on as I'm preparing for this year as a big confidence boost," Dillon said. "Now going into year two, second year in the offense, knowing a little bit more and hopeful expanding my role, I definitely know what I can contribute. So just looking to build on top of that and having more games like that Tennessee game."
The Packers have found success relying on a power back in the past with runners like Eddie Lacy, who led the team in rushing in each season from 2013-2015. They haven't quite had a one-two punch like they will with Jones -- the clear bell cow in this offense -- and Dillon, though, making for an intriguing outlook, provided Green Bay can mend fences with Aaron Rodgers before the 2021 season begins.
For now, it's little more than an offseason trope, one that falls in line behind players being in the best shape of their lives and offenses looking to be more explosive than ever. But if it comes to fruition, the Packers will only be more dangerous as an offense as long as Rodgers is involved.