The Green Bay Packers are going to, presumably, rely heavily on their top two running backs, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, this year. With Aaron Rodgers out of the picture and in a New York Jets uniform. While the notion of Jordan Love running a pure Matt LaFleur offense that relies more on running the ball and attacking the middle of the field. 2023 will truly be an important year for multiple reasons, but one of them is that Dillon is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Last week, running backs coach Ben Sirmans called out Dillon for his inconsistent play in 2022. On Monday’s “Under the Helmet with the Gravedigger” segment of The Earl Ingram Show, Gilbert Brown had some strong words in defense of the fourth-year running back.
Gilbert Brown Believes the Green Bay Packers Need to Shift Pressure to the Offensive Line, Not AJ Dillon
Earl Ingram read some of the criticism of Dillon aloud on air to ensure the audience knew the context. He then asked Gilbert what his thoughts were. He responded:
“First of all man, any team in the NFL would love to have the problem that we have in Green Bay. We got a one-two punch! We’re going to hit you with that salt, but here comes this pepper! I can’t believe, I mean, I know I know it’s his contract and stuff, but coach’s job is to push you.
“Aaron Jones is the lead dog, and Dillon gets behind him. Now, Dillon may get in front and block for him, but Aaron Jones is the lead dog. He’s supposed to get the touches. He’s supposed to get the yards. If their was no AJ Dillon, it would be just Aaron Jones all the time with a backup to give him a break.
“But we got a luxury of two! Now I understand wanting to keep pushing him to keep doing what he’s been doing, but why you got to degrade this man because he is one hell of a running back! And now what you’re all trying to do is say, ‘Well now, you’re not worth this type of money,’ or you going to put it out there in the streets so no other team looks at him and you’re just going to keep him. Don’t do that!
“They always want to put it on the backs. It starts up front! If you want to yell at somebody, get these guys to get the yards you want, it starts with the guys up front.”
Ingram then read that “in 2021, Dillon was effective but not explosive,” and listeners could hear Gilbert sigh in exasperation as he read it. Clearly, he did not agree with that assessment. In talking about the apparent lack of explosive plays, Gilbert explained:
“He’s got to get by the first wave [of the defense] first! See, they want to point the finger at this guy! It don’t matter! That offensive line that you putting together has to move people out of the way or AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones are going to do nothing. So stop putting it just on him!”
Gilbert makes an excellent point. While the offensive line was overall steady in 2022, it took WEEKS for Matt LaFleur to take Jake Hanson and Royce Newman out of the starting lineup. It is on the coaches to put the best offensive line out on the field every single week, starting with Week One.
Another point that was talked about a lot last season, but has been forgotten about since, is the fact that neither Jones nor Dillon got the number of carries that they should have last year. Many times, Aaron Rodgers audibled out of run plays, resulting in Jones getting less than 15 carries in 12 out of the 17 games that he played. Green Bay’s record in games that he did get 15 carries: 4-1.
There were three games last year in which Dillon, too, got at least 15 carries. The Packers’ record in those games: 3-0.
Yes, the offensive line needs to open the holes, but LaFleur as a play caller and Love as the quarterback must give both Jones and Dillon the opportunities. Last season, despite its many disappointments, even proved that.
Run the ball and thrive.
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