Opposing defenses are put under additional strain when Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are on the field together. Sadly, it’s not as easy as writing out a few extra pieces for them to play; there is another important issue to take into account.
Jones and Dillon, two of the Green Bay Packers’ better players, both offer the playmaking potential this offense needs. The diversity that each player brings gives Matt LaFleur more freedom as a play caller and gives him more options.
It also causes problems for defenses since they must prepare for more than just having to defend both players at once.
According to Sharp Football, Jones and Dillon were on the field together for just 2% of the Packers’ offensive plays last year. The Packers will need to use Jones and Dillon more frequently against Chicago since it is evident that doing so will benefit them.
But the additional problems that these two can cause for defenders can also be advantageous for the entire offense.
During the 2021 season, more than a fifth of those snaps were combined in a single contest versus Minnesota in Week 17. In that game, the Packers offense as a whole averaged 7.4 yards per play on those snaps, as noted by Pete Dougherty of Packers News.
To put things in perspective, in 2021, their season average was 5.8 yards, which placed them sixth in the NFL.
Even last weekend in Minnesota, when Jones and Dillon were present, the Packers made one of their biggest gains while neither of them touched the ball. Jones started on the left side of the formation and motioned across while Dillon was in the backfield.
Jones ran a clear-out route to take the defender with him downfield as the Packers ran play-action with Dillon at the snap, creating a ton of room on the right side for Robert Tonyan to run a crossing route. The final result was a gain of 23 yards.
Unsurprisingly, getting Jones and Dillon more pictures together was one of the summer’s hot topics. When reporters questioned Matt LaFleur about it on Wednesday, he responded that it’s not as straightforward as it would seem.
“I believe we are careful about playing Jones and Dillon together. I wouldn’t say that we are limited, but you don’t want to tire them out. And if you have a large package and one of those guys gets hurt, that package is gone, and half your offense, or however big a package that is, is lost.
Having those two players on the field causes some challenges for defenders, so I think you have to be aware of that. It also depends somewhat on where we are in the game.
It’s a legitimate worry, to be sure, especially with only two real running backs on the roster. It also explains why these particular play packages have been scarce.
We might observe LaFleur implementing more play packages for his playmaking running backs after Kylin Hill is released from the PUP list, which he will be able to do after Week 4.
Hill had a limited role in 2021 before getting hurt, but he has demonstrated his ability to be spectacular with the ball in his hands. Now that Hill is in his second season, LaFleur might feel more at ease with him taking on a greater role if necessary because he has some experience and familiarity with the game.
This might lead to more possibilities for Jones and Dillon to work together.
Based on the few snaps that Jones and Dillon shared in Week 1, AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones are already on track to play together a lot more frequently than they did in 2021.
Even with the uncertainty at wide receiver, based on what LaFleur said, I’m not convinced it will ever make up a major piece of the offense.