Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are poised to give the Green Bay Packers lightning and thunder out of the backfield in 2021, but seventh-round rookie Kylin Hill could still make things interesting for fans in the preseason.
As running backs coach Ben Sirmans made clear during mandatory minicamp earlier this month, the Packers will head into next month’s training camp with the third spot in their rushing rotation “wide open” behind Jones and Dillon. That means Hill will have an opportunity to compete with 2019 sixth-rounder Dexter Williams and second-year Patrick Taylor for a spot on Green Bay’s initial 53-man roster in 2021.
Here’s what Sirmans told reporters on June 3 about the upcoming position battle:
“I already told the guys that, as of right now, you look at it as though your 1 and 2 spots are set and the No. 3 is wide open. The bottom line is you really can’t do much about it because you haven’t played any real games yet, so all those guys can do is do whatever they can to make themselves better, make sure we develop a trust in them because they know what they’re doing. And then, that really won’t have a chance to work itself out until we get to the preseason and start playing some real football. Everybody, all those guys, are well aware there’s an opportunity sitting there and they know, ‘Hey, don’t sleep on the guys that you feel are underneath you’ because you’ve got to also bring it every day, too. But they all know that third position is wide open and won’t be decided until we start playing real football.”
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Can Hill Seize Rookie Opportunity with Packers?
It can be difficult to know what to make of rookies selected in the final round of an NFL draft, but there is quite a bit of sizzle of Hill’s college tape from his four seasons at Mississippi State. He carried the ball 452 times over 30 games and racked up 2,535 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, doing his most damage in 2019 when he scored 11 times and gained 1,530 all-purpose yards.
Hill is also fully aware of how to use his stocky frame (5-foot-10, 214 pounds) to devastating effect against defenders, as he taught one unlucky opponent in one of his most popular college highlights:
There is also Hill’s remarkable track record with taking care of the football, fumbling just once in his entire career with the Bulldogs despite his Jamaal Williams-like way of carrying the ball away from his body when he runs.
“The one thing he has done a great job of is securing the ball in traffic, and you can see him do it here when we practice,” Sirmans said. “But initially, it’s really kind of hard to believe just with how he carried the ball in college, carried it away from his body a lot, but he just had that great presence of mind to know that anytime the defense started to close in on him, he was ready to secure it.”
Packers Counting on Dillon to Step Up
Speaking of Williams, the Packers’ former No. 2 rusher was allowed to sign elsewhere this past offseason, setting the stage for Dillon — their 2020 second-round pick — to ascend to a greater role in their offense for his sophomore outing. The progression only feels natural given his high draft selection last year, and clearly, Dillon hasn’t had much trouble accepting his new responsibilities in the eyes of his coaches.
“He also sees the opportunity that he has in front of him, and I think a lot of the times that’s enough to add an extra spark to a guy and how he goes about his business,” Sirmans said. “I think that’s the biggest thing that I see from him is that he knows we’re going to lean on him a lot more this year than what we did last year and it’s extremely important for him to feel like he’s an asset to this team.”