few Early on this season, there were multiple questions floating around the Packers’ struggling offense. One such question was, “What is going on with A.J. Dillon?” The former second round pick looked like a shell of his past self, recording only a single touchdown and one run of 20+ yards through the first 11 weeks of the season. However, the last few weeks have been a different story. The powerful back has racked up a touchdown in consecutive games while putting together over 200 all-purpose yards. Against the Bears, he recorded his highest rushing total of the year – 93 yards on 18 attempts.
What has produced this all-too-welcome change? I turned to the film to find out.
One of the first things that stands out when rewatching Dillon’s carries is the offensive line, especially the on the interior. With Jon Runyan Jr. putting some impressive blocks on film and Elgton Jenkins looking much more like his pre-injury self, Dillon has often been able to reach the second and third levels of the defense. Josh Myers, Yosh Nijman, David Bakhtiari, Zach Tom, and the rest of the offense have been no slouches at blocking either.
In this clip of his TD run against the Chicago Bears, Dillon goes untouched until he reaches the safety. The offensive line does an excellent job blocking up the outside zone concept. Assisted by a DL slant towards the TE, Tom and Jenkins neutralize the EDGE. Njiman reaches and secures the 3t, Runyan reaches the NT, and Myers climbs up to the LB. Once the LB attempts to backdoor Myers’ block, Dillon is left with a massive lane – made even wider by Sammy Watkins‘ excellent block on the CB. Dillon shows off excellent acceleration and his signature power, driving through the tackle attempt to reach the endzone.
On this run against the Eagles, the left side of the line again shows out. Green Bay looks to be running a variant of counter, with TE Tyler Davis kicking out the EDGE and FB Josiah Deguara moving to block the first off-ball LB that flows playside. Josh Myers does a great job getting the NT turned, but even more impressive is the duece block from Bakhtiari and Jenkins. Jenkins strikes and delivers the 3t to Bakhtiari, then looks to the second level. With LB #57 scraping fast, he turns his eyes to LB #43, anticipating his late scrape as he tracks Dillon. Bakhtiari pancakes his man, and Jenkins’ excellent block gets Dillon up to the safety.
Of course, the excellent blocking hasn’t been the only factor in Dillon’s success. The RB has also demonstrated excellent vision and anticipation that allows him to take advantage of the openings provided by the OL.
Dillon’s score against the Eagles came on a beautifully blocked wide zone run that Dillon complemented with his vision. Myers and Jenkins handle the NT and WILL LB, Runyan climbs free to the MIKE, and Nijman does a fantastic job reaching the 3t on the cutoff block. Dillon presses the outside, spots the massive hole formed by Runyan and Nijman, and cuts back. His speed eliminates the safety’s angle, and he powers through contact for the TD.
Here, the Packers are running Duo – a downhill run scheme well-suited to Dillon’s skillset. He is reading the strong-side LB – the MIKE. If the MIKE flows downhill fast, Dillon is supposed to bounce the run outside. Dillon presses the hole, then bounces once LB #57 inserts into the B gap. Zach Tom does a great job coming of the double-team on the EDGE to secure the MIKE. With Mercedes Lewis engulfing the EDGE, there’s no one to work to the D gap when Dillon hits it.
After fighting through adversity in the first portion of the season, the Packers offense has gained life in the past few weeks. A significant portion of that improvement has been the resurgent A.J. Dillon. Even though Green Bay’s season has largely turned out to be a bust, Dillon’s physical running style can still provide enjoyment to Packers fans as the Lambeau winter begins to set in.
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