AJ Dillon had a big challenge laid at his feet on Sunday night when star running back Aaron Jones went down with a knee injury and was forced out of the game for the Green Bay Packers. With Jones’ night ending, though, he looked at his running mate on the sideline and gave him one final directive against Seattle.
“When he first exited the game, he looked at me and said, ‘Get the job done. Finish it off,'” Dillon told reporters in November 14’s postgame. “That’s like my big brother on the team. I love him to death, so for him to believe in me, that trust was great. I wanted to finish it off for him and the team, and we got it done as a team.”
Dillon made it look easy in the final quarter against the Seahawks, rushing for a touchdown on each of the Packers’ next two drives on their way to a 17-0 victory. He finished with a combined 66 rushing yards and added another 62 receiving yards on two catches, including one that he skillfully took 50 yards down the left sideline to set up his second trip to the end zone on the night.
The Packers will need more of the same from Dillon moving forward with Jones set to miss some time. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Jones suffered a “mild MCL sprain” in the win over the Seahawks, and while that likely means the Packers won’t have to place him on injured reserve, it is expected he will be out for one or two weeks. Given the Packers have two more games before their bye week, it could be that Jones does not return until Week 14’s home game against Chicago on December 12.
The good news? Dillon seems to be more than up to the challenge.
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Dillon Gets Turn as Packers’ Lead Back
For the first time since selecting him in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft, the Packers will have an opportunity to see how Dillon functions as the lead rusher out of their backfield. He was dominant in that role for his three seasons at Boston College, rushing for a combined 4,382 yards and 38 touchdowns against ACC competition, and the early showings in his NFL career suggest more dominance could follow.
Dillon had an understated rookie season with the Packers as their third-string running back behind Jones and Jamaal Williams. He played just 11 games and spent more than a month late in the season battling issues with COVID-19, finishing the year with just 46 carries for 242 yards. A bulk of that production, however, came during a snowy Week 16 win over Tennessee in which Dillon charged for 124 rushing yards and scored the first two touchdowns of his career, a positive sign for the future of the Packers’ backfield.
Since then, Dillon has done more than fill out Williams’ shoes in the No. 2 role. The 247-pound power rusher become their go-to option at the goal line and needs just 135 more rushing yards in the Packers’ final seven games to surpass Williams’ best-ever mark with the Packers. He has also looked even more capable as a pass-catching option out of the backfield with 16 receptions on 18 total targets this year.
“AJ’s done a great job, and that’s what we expect out of him,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said Monday. “I think the one thing that he’s brought that maybe we didn’t know throughout (the draft process) until you get a guy here, but just the value that he’s provided in the pass game as a receiver out of the backfield. He’s done an outstanding job with that.”