Packers In-Depth Position Preview: Running Back

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Packers In-Depth Position Preview: Running Back

NFL

Packers In-Depth Position Preview: Running Back

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The Packers will open training camp shortly in preparation for the 2021 NFL season. This is the next in a series of in-depth articles previewing each position group for the Packers. We will discuss each player at the position, provide a depth chart and analysis of each player on the 90-man roster, their skill set, what they need to improve on and what is expected of them in 2021.

Today we will look at the running backs. Click here to see our look at the tight end position and here for an in-depth look at the defensive line.

There is change at running back this year. The Packers re-signed Aaron Jones before he could leave in free agency, but Jamaal Williams is now with the Lions and A.J. Dillon is expected to move up to RB2 this season. The third spot on the depth chart is up for grabs and there will be a battle between several players for that spot.

If Aaron Rodgers does not play for the Packers this season, there could be pressure on the running backs to do more in this offense with the inexperienced Jordan Love running the offense.

Here is a look at the Packers running back depth chart entering training camp:

  1. Aaron Jones

Jones earned Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his career in 2020 after gaining a career-high 1,104 yards in 14 games. He was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this past offseason but he surprised a lot of people by re-signing with the Packers.

Jones has great speed and vision and can break off a long run at any time. He averaged an impressive 5.5-yards per carry and his career average per rush is 5.2.

In addition to his ability to run the football, Jones has developed into a reliable and dangerous receiver.  He is too fast for linebackers and most safeties to cover one-on-one and if he gets the ball in space, he is always a threat to break off a big gain.

Because he’s only 5’9”, the Packers like to pace Jones and make sure he’s still fresh late in the season and in the playoffs.

Jones has a winning attitude and a great work ethic and should be the Packers number one back this year and beyond.

  1. A.J. Dillon

Dillon had a challenging rookie season dealing with Covid-19 and being third on the depth chart but with Jamaal Williams’ departure, Dillon should be moving up to the number two spot and see a lot more reps.

Dillon gives the Packers offense a sharp contrast in skill set to Jones. While Jones is a speedy outside runner, Dillon has a lot more size to run between the tackles and has surprising quickness for a 6’, 247-pound back.

Dillon will need to show he can run routes well and pass block well enough to get a lot more playing time.

He was the Packers feature back in one game last year, the 40-14 win over the Titans, gaining 124 yards on 21 carries and running for two touchdowns.

If Dillon takes a step forward, he and Jones can give the Packers an outstanding 1-2 punch at running back.

  1. Kylin Hill

The Packers selected Hill in the seventh round of this year’s draft. The former Mississippi State star is considered the favorite entering training camp to secure the third running back spot.

Hill gained 1,350 yards and scored 10 touchdowns in his last full season in college. There aren’t many doubts about his ability to run the ball, but to make the roster as RB3, he will need to show he can be a reliable pass blocker and receiver out of the backfield.

How he performs on special teams may also be a big factor in determining if Hill earns a roster spot or starts the season on the practice squad. The Packers like his vision and his long-term potential.

  1. Dexter Williams

This will be Dexter Williams’ third training camp with the Packers and the former Notre Dame star must prove he can be a contributor on offense for the Packers.

Williams has played seven games over his first two seasons and seven carries for 19 yards. He showed how well he could run the football during the 2019 preseason but he needs to show the coaching staff he can pass protect and catch the football well enough to remain on the roster.

The Packers kept him on the practice squad for most of last season and elevated him to the active roster for three games.

This is a make or break season for Williams with the Packers. He’s had two years to show he can realize his potential and may not get another chance after this year’s training camp.

  1. Patrick Taylor

The Packers signed Taylor as an undrafted free agent last year but the former Memphis star spent the entire season on the reserve/non-football injury list.

Taylor was considered a good pass receiver in college and caught 55 passes during his college career. One area he needs to improve is his pass blocking which is always something Matt LaFleur requires of his running backs.

He has good size at 6’3” and 223 pounds but lacks outstanding burst and doesn’t always use his size to his advantage. If he can improve his pass blocking and contribute on special teams, he could develop into a useful third-down back this year and find a larger role down the road but Taylor is a long-shot to make the final 53-man roster this season.

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