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Countdown to Camp: Packers' offense looks to build upon backfield pillars

Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon continue to pack a punch as Green Bay’s go-to running backs

Packers running backs AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones
Packers running backs 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 – In his maiden voyage as the Packers' starting quarterback, Jordan Love couldn't ask for a much better backfield pairing than Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon.

In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, Green Bay's "boom and zoom" was the best running back duo in the NFL last season after combining for nearly 2,500 total yards and 14 touchdowns.

Yet, Jones and Dillon still feel they could be even better in 2023.

Aside from the changeover at QB, the Packers made their biggest move of the offseason in February when they came to terms on a contract restructure with Jones, the franchise's third all-time leading rusher who's coming off a third 1,000-yard rushing campaign in his last four seasons.

The 28-year-old running back has continued to defy the perceived limitations of the running backs in today's NFL. In 2022, Jones posted career highs in both rushing yards (1,121) and receptions (59), the most by a Green Bay running back since Ahman Green's 62 catches in 2001.

Understanding the volatility of the market in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones and his representatives worked with Green Bay's front office to help create some much-needed cap space while ensuring the Pro Bowl running back remained one of the highest-paid players at his position.

It was a prudent move. The months that followed saw several NFL teams have to part company with their franchise running backs, including Dallas (Ezekiel Elliott) and Minnesota (Dalvin Cook).

As the offense begins its transition from Aaron Rodgers to Love under center, there may be no more important offensive playmaker on the roster than Jones. With Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb both signing with the New York Jets, Jones' 1,516 total yards accounts for nearly 40% of Green Bay's returning offensive production from last season.

The next closest returning contributor is the fourth-year veteran Dillon, whose 976 total yards from 2022 comprises another 25%. Over the past two seasons, Jones and Dillon have packed a punch together (4,798 total yards and 31 touchdowns on 930 touches).

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

While a consistent and durable performer – Dillon hasn't missed a game the past two seasons – the 6-foot, 247-pound running back felt he didn't quite meet his own expectations. After admittedly "playing tight" in 2022, Dillon made it his mission this offseason to take a freer, more fun-loving approach to a contract year.

The Packers will need the best version of both veterans, as they look to expand upon a plethora of packages Head Coach Matt LaFleur and his offensive coaches have devised to best utilize the talents of Jones and Dillon. That included a variation of Green Bay's patented "Pony" two-RB look in which Dillon played a blocking H-back in front of Jones as the ball carrier.

It doesn't have to be just Jones and Dillon, either. The Packers have a wide-open competition for the No. 3 job that could have a trickle-down effect on the offense, with Patrick Taylor looking to fend off practice-squad holdover Tyler Goodson, seventh-round pick Lew Nichols and Emanuel Wilson.

Taylor played in 14 games last season, bouncing back and forth between the active roster and practice squad. The 25-year-old running back has rushed for 120 yards and one TD on 33 carries over the past two seasons, while also serving on special teams.

Goodson made a convincing bid for the 53-man roster last summer (29 carries for 107 yards and a TD) before spending his entire rookie season on the practice squad. He was elevated Week 17 vs. Minnesota but wasn't active in the game.

A former All-Big Ten running back at Iowa, Goodson drew praise this spring from Jones after he traveled to Miami to train with the Pro Bowl running back and his twin brother Alvin for a month during the offseason.

The 5-foot-10, 220-pound Nichols, who had the same college position coach as Jones, brings a hard-charging style to the position. During his redshirt sophomore year at Central Michigan, Nichols led the NCAA Division I Football Subdivision with 1,710 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. His production dipped last year after he missed three games due to injury, but Nichols still led the Chippewas with 616 rushing yards and six TDs.

Countdown to Camp series

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