Countdown to Camp: Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon pack all-around backfield punch

Packers running backs continue to prove they’re more than just ballcarriers

Running back duo AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones

"Countdown to Camp" is a daily look at the Packers' roster, position by position, leading up to the start of training camp. The series continues with the running backs.

GREEN BAY – Perhaps the most asked question of the Packers' offseason was to whom the offense would turn to help replace Davante Adams' production after the All-Pro receiver was traded to Las Vegas in March.

Look no further than Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon.

Green Bay's one-two backfield punch had its hand up all spring, welcoming the responsibility that comes with being the next men up on the Packers' playmaking front.

In 2021, Jones and Dillon became just the fourth backfield duo in team history to each amass 1,000 total yards in the same season, and the first since Gerry Ellis and Eddie Lee Ivery in 1980.

Head Coach Matt LaFleur has kept plans for the post-Adams era close to the vest, but there's little question Jones and Dillon will play a major part in the direction of the offense moving forward.

That doesn't just mean running the ball, either. Since his arrival, LaFleur has continued to innovate with his backfield, including a two-RB "Pony" package that has yielded positive results.

It helped lead to Jones and Dillon not only rushing for 1,602 yards and nine touchdowns last year but also finishing as Green Bay's second- and fourth-leading pass-catchers, respectively.

It's old hat for Jones, who's been a central part of the Packers' offense for the past five years. The former fifth-round pick enters 2022 needing just 35 rushing yards to eclipse Tony Canadeo for fourth in team history for career rushing yards.  

Jones was rewarded for his back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons with a long-term contract in March 2021. Unfortunately, less than a month later, the 27-year-old running back lost his father, Alvin, due to complications from COVID-19.

Jones dedicated the remainder of his NFL career to his dad and wore Alvin's ashes in a locket all season, including during his four-touchdown performance in a 35-17 win over Detroit in Week 2.

A knee injury hampered Jones down the December stretch, but after sitting out of the regular-season finale against Detroit, he finished the year with nine catches for 129 yards in the Packers' NFC Divisional playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers.

The following is the second installment in a series of photos examining the Packers' roster position by position. This installment examines the running backs.

Green Bay was able to play it smart with Jones thanks to Dillon, who was among the team's most improved players in 2021.

The former second-round pick stepped into the No. 2 role vacated by Jamaal Williams and led the Packers' ground game with 803 rushing yards and five TDs.

Dillon also became a favorite in the passing game, catching 34 passes for 313 yards and two TDs in 17 regular-season games. Comparatively, he had just 38 catches for 236 yards and two TDs in 35 college games at Boston College.

Perhaps the greatest measure of Dillon's value to the offense could be seen in the playoff loss to the 49ers, when a fractured rib suffered on a third-quarter kickoff return forced the 6-foot, 247-pound running back from the game.

With last season's disappointment behind them, both Jones and Dillon spoke this offseason about their excitement for what the 2022 campaign has in store for the Packers' backfield.

Factoring into that is the wide-open competition for the No. 3 spot, with undrafted rookies Tyler Goodson and BJ Baylor joining 2021 seventh-round pick Kylin Hill and second-year veteran Patrick Taylor.

Hill won the job coming out of training camp last year and got his rookie season off to a promising start before blowing out his knee on a kickoff return against Arizona in Week 8.

The 5-foot-10, 214-pound running back told reporters during the offseason program he's back to "feeling like myself again" after spending the spring with the rehab group.

Taylor was elevated from the practice squad following Hill's injury. After taking an injury redshirt during his rookie season with the Packers in 2020, Taylor rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries in nine regular-season appearances.

Both Goodson and Baylor enjoyed prodigious college careers, though in vastly different ways.

In three seasons at Iowa, Goodson racked up 3,116 total yards (2,551 rushing, 565 receiving) and 19 touchdowns in 34 career games. The 5-foot-9, 197-pound running back was named third-team All-Big Ten after rushing for a career-high 1,151 yards this past year.

Conversely, nearly all of Baylor's production came during his fourth and final season at Oregon State. He became the first Beaver running back since Steven Jackson (2003) to lead the Pac-12 in rushing with 1,337 yards in 2021.

The yardage accounted for 77.8% of Baylor's career rushing yards, while 13 of his 18 collegiate TDs came during his final year in Corvallis, Ore.

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