Getting Both Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon 50 Catches Is a Realistic Goal

Earlier this week, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said that he expected both of his top two running backs, Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon, to be a bigger part of the passing game this season.

“We have runs to both of them, we have swing passes to them, we have screens, we have down-the-field stuff, we have action stuff, we have scat protection, we have six-man, seven-man protection stuff. There's a lot in the offense for those two guys. We've got to get our best 11 on the field, and it seems like those two are both in the best 11.”

But Rodgers closed the interview by adding, “I think 50 [catches] for both of those guys is realistic.”

While this sounded shocking at first, it’s a perfectly logical expectation for the Packers pair of top backs.

Consider that Jones caught 52 passes last season in 65 targets despite missing two games due to injuries. In 2020, he had 47 receptions in 14 games and in 2019, 49 grabs in 16 games. Jones has been at or near 50 catches in each of the last three seasons.

Dillon caught 34 passes last year on just 37 targets in his first season of extended action in the NFL. The Packers weren’t sure if the former Boston College star would be a good receiver out of the backfield because he was rarely asked to catch passes in college. But Dillon showed the ability to not only catch swing passes out of the backfield and screens, but to get downfield and to maneuver in space after making the catch. In short, Dillon has proven himself to be a multi-purpose weapon whenever he has the football.

When you consider where the Packers offense is right now as we head into the 2022 campaign, having both runners catch 50 passes (assuming they stay relatively healthy) is not far-fetched. Afterall, 50 catches in 17 games means each player must average exactly three catches per running back per game.

The Packers offense is also likely to feature more two-running back sets this season which will get both Jones and Dillon the field more often and is designed to cause matchup problems for the defense.

Both running backs are likely to be a bigger part of the offense because of the changes at wide receiver this season. Davante Adams is now with the Las Vegas Raiders while Marquez Valdes-Scantling signed with Kansas City. Adams has been Rodgers’ favorite target over the last five years and had a team-high 169 targets in 2021. MVS had 55 targets despite missing six games. That’s 224 targets from last year that need to be replaced.

The Packers wide receiver situation remains in flux. There are more questions than answers at this point in the preseason although there is undeniably talent at the position. But can Allen Lazard be the number one wide receiver and still be productive? Can Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb stay on the field? These are the top three receivers on the depth chart as of right now.

Of course, the other question is how soon can Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Amari Rodgers and the other young receivers become a big part of the offense? And related to that is how quickly can they earn the trust of their quarterback who has historically been impatient with the mistakes inexperienced receivers often make.

Logic states that the receivers Rodgers is more familiar with and trusts will get more targets, especially early in the season. That will mean the veteran wideouts, tight ends like Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis and Josiah Deguara and of course, Jones and Dillon.

With his favorite target gone and an inexperienced receiving corps in transition this season, Rodgers will have to distribute the ball more evenly and develop chemistry and trust with his remaining targets. When you add the fact that there will be more formations with both running backs on the field at the same time, seeing Jones and Dillon getting more targets than they had last year is a safe bet.

No pair of Packers running backs have ever reached 50 catches in the same season although some duos have come close. In 1997, Dorsey Levens had 53 catches while William Henderson added 41. Edgar Bennett caught 61 balls in 1995 while Dorsey Levens finished the season with 48 In 1992, Harry Sydney caught 49 passes and Vince Workman had 47 while in 1980, Eddie Lee Ivery made 50 receptions while Gerry Ellis had 48.

When Rodgers first said both runners could catch 50 passes, it sounded shocking. But a deeper look shows it really isn’t an unrealistic goal.

 

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

NFL Categories: 
6 points

Comments (25)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
dobber's picture

August 20, 2022 at 12:10 pm

At this point, granted we haven't really seen the 2022 offense yet, I would still take the over on AJones at 60 catches and the under on Dillon at 45. That's still about 100 for the pair. I say that fully knowing that opposing DCs have attacked Jones with S/CB coverage rather than LBs in the past, and have been able to limit him.

3 points
3
0
Coldworld's picture

August 20, 2022 at 12:33 pm

Jones’ coverage might actually lead to more opportunities for Dillon in the passing game out of 2 back sets. I want Jones to pull cb coverage off other catchers until they leave him and then let him burn them.

Get rid of Rodgers and use Goodson and Jones in a 2 back set (or slot/RB really). Let’s see what coverage DCs go to then. I think Lazard would have a field day. Sadly I think that’s too imaginative for LaFleur who used RBs poorly last year. Rodgers really hasn’t much experience running from the backfield and thus wouldn’t provide a credible threat to do so.

3 points
5
2
murf7777's picture

August 20, 2022 at 02:15 pm

Dobber, I agree with you and I'll up you a bit. I think they will go over 110 in catches with Jones at 70+ and Dillon aaround 40. Of course, barring injuries. Dillon is great at catching the ball but isn't the route runner that Jones is. I was surprised to hear Rodger's state Jones is a better route runner than many WR's or something like that.

0 points
1
1
stockholder's picture

August 20, 2022 at 12:27 pm

Are we going to the WEST COAST offense again? Levens had 53 in 1997 and even 71 in 1999. Then there was Edgar Bennet and William Henderson, who both got near 50 too. Sure it's possible.

3 points
5
2
Coldworld's picture

August 20, 2022 at 12:34 pm

The Henderson hurdle … memories.

4 points
4
0
jannes bjornson's picture

August 20, 2022 at 05:35 pm

I like Fullbacks...

2 points
2
0
LLCHESTY's picture

August 20, 2022 at 07:32 pm

1 points
1
0
NickPerry's picture

August 20, 2022 at 12:48 pm

"Adams has been Rodgers’ favorite target over the last five years and had a team-high 169 targets in 2021. MVS had 55 targets despite missing six games. That’s 224 targets from last year that need to be replaced."

So is 50 catches REALLY that big of a deal, especially when you consider all the 2-back sets the Packers will be running? Three catches a piece per game isn't that many at all.

As long as Cobb, Watkins, and Lazard all STAY on the field for 17 games or close, I think THIS Packers passing attack in 2022 will be more than good enough.

Will Degura be better and take what's really his 2nd-year jump THIS year? How fast can Tonyan get back to playing at least as well as he was when he got injured last year in Arizona? And really, most importantly, when will Bakhtiari and Jenkins be back as the starting LT and RT?

Yes, Jones and Dillon are going to be a HUGE part of this offense, and YES, they'll both probably catch AT LEAST 50 balls each. If all those things above I've mentioned happen they'll probably catch even MORE!!

4 points
4
0
Littlejim51's picture

August 20, 2022 at 02:11 pm

It is about time someone stated the obvious
Jones was second leading receiver in 2021 and Dillon can surely catch 50
All this energy waisted on “how will the packers survive without Adams”
Malarkey
The packers are transitioning to a purer version of Matt LaFleur offense which schemes players open
The packers do not need a Devante Adams

3 points
4
1
LLCHESTY's picture

August 20, 2022 at 07:35 pm

You're just going to leave ESB and his 17 targets hanging out there like that? 🤔

0 points
0
0
Coldworld's picture

August 21, 2022 at 08:55 am

I think Deguara will be better if he is able to play the role he fits as an H back, not have to pretend to be a conventional TE. Right now that’s a bit up in the air due to T Davis’ frankly spectacular implosion as a catcher and blocker. Keep an eye on Beker. That kid can at least block in line and leading.

1 points
1
0
Bure9620's picture

August 20, 2022 at 02:15 pm

It's about eligibles. I am excited for the 21 and 22 personnel groups. There will be times Lazard or Watkins will be the only WR on the field

0 points
0
0
Fubared's picture

August 20, 2022 at 08:36 pm

I think screens to the backs is an effective tool but not if you make it a big part of your passing game. teams will be wise to it and be prepared to defend it. besides your receivers get less was action and less experience. how about we get the receivers to run and catch the ball rogers

0 points
0
0
Bure9620's picture

August 20, 2022 at 09:53 pm

Not all passes to backs are screens

2 points
2
0
Oppy's picture

August 20, 2022 at 09:44 pm

Am I the only one who's more interested in hearing about how we're going to get Jones and Dillon more touches in the running game in 2022? Is it unreasonable to want to see your running backs run the ball?

A strong run offense will make things easier for the young WRs to be effective on the field. It will take pressure off of Rodgers in the passing game. It will increase the opportunities for big down field plays off play action.

The one thing running the ball doesn't do is inflate Rodgers' stat line.

-1 points
1
2
Bure9620's picture

August 20, 2022 at 10:13 pm

Yes I am with you. But so long as #12 is QB, we will not be an over 50% run team as he is going to make those checks at the line. The short passes, RPOs, bubble screens and swing routes are essentially also part of our run game. What helps is we now have the best WR blocking duo in the league with Watkins and Lazard. I do believe this was a big part of the Watkins signing as he is a terrific blocker and can help the run game.

4 points
4
0
Oppy's picture

August 21, 2022 at 10:07 am

Bubble screens and swing routes doesn't pull in LB's, force safeties to cheat up in the box, and force DB's to hesitate like running the rock does, though, which is what makes running the ball so pivotal to ease the passing game.

0 points
0
0
Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

August 20, 2022 at 09:51 pm

The way we get everyone their catches is by never going 3 and out. Move the chains and everyone gets 50 balls. Fire the punter and feed the two headed beast in the backfield.

2 points
2
0
PatrickGB's picture

August 21, 2022 at 07:57 am

I don’t think that the team has much choice.

0 points
0
0
Fubared's picture

August 21, 2022 at 08:42 am

When a short and fast back like Tyrek hill, by the time the QB was ready to throw, he was ten yards down field in the open not behind the los and in the flat. As they say speed kills and it almost makes a lot of plays work too. Good luck.
The fact that Rodgers came up with this statement says a lot about what he is seeing and not seeing.

0 points
0
0
Fubared's picture

August 21, 2022 at 08:42 am

When a short and fast back like Tyrek hill, by the time the QB was ready to throw, he was ten yards down field in the open not behind the los and in the flat. As they say speed kills and it almost makes a lot of plays work too. Good luck.
The fact that Rodgers came up with this statement says a lot about what he is seeing and not seeing.

0 points
0
0
Fubared's picture

August 21, 2022 at 08:42 am

When a short and fast back like Tyrek hill, by the time the QB was ready to throw, he was ten yards down field in the open not behind the los and in the flat. As they say speed kills and it almost makes a lot of plays work too. Good luck.
The fact that Rodgers came up with this statement says a lot about what he is seeing and not seeing.

0 points
0
0
Philarod's picture

August 22, 2022 at 07:09 pm

"No pair of Packers running backs have ever reached 50 catches in the same season although some duos have come close. In 1997, Dorsey Levens had 53 catches while William Henderson added 51. "

What am I missing here? Wouldn't 1997 qualify or was there a typo?

0 points
0
0
GilMartin's picture

August 22, 2022 at 07:13 pm

It should be 41 for Henderson. Thanks for catching that Philarod.

0 points
0
0
Philarod's picture

August 22, 2022 at 07:09 pm

"No pair of Packers running backs have ever reached 50 catches in the same season although some duos have come close. In 1997, Dorsey Levens had 53 catches while William Henderson added 51. "

What am I missing here? Wouldn't 1997 qualify or was there a typo?

1 points
1
0