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Green Bay Packers backfield duo primed to join an elite group in 2022

Robin Adams

The Green Bay Packers did not have a 1,000-yard rusher last season. AJ Dillon led the team with 803 rushing yards. Aaron Jones, who had 1,000-yard seasons in 2019 and 2020, had 799 yards on the ground. However, both running backs had over 1,000 all-purpose yards (rushing and receiving yards).

Dillon added 313 receiving yards to give him 1,116 all-purpose and Jones had 391 yards through the air for 1,190 all-purpose yards. They were the only running back duo in the NFL last season with over 1,000 all-purpose yards. With a new look offense in 2022, they very well could also surpass 1,000 yards rushing each in 2022.

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Green Bay Packers aim to make rushing history in 2022

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Credit: USA Today Network

Rushing for 1,000 yards in a season is hard nowadays. Last season, only seven running backs in the entire league eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. Having two running backs on the same square rush for 1,000 yards in the same season is even more difficult, as evidenced by how rarely it occurs.

YearTeamLeading RusherRushing YardsSecond-leading rusherRushing Yards
1972Miami DolphinsLarry Csonka1,117Mercury Morris1,000
1976Pittsburgh SteelersFranco Harris1,128Rocky Bleier1,036
1985Cleveland BrownsKevin Mack1,104Earnest Byner1,002
2008New York GiantsBrandon Jacobs1,089Derrick Ward1,025
2009Carolina PanthersJonathan Stewart1,133DeAngelo Williams1,117

There have also been two instances in which a quarterback and running back each rushed for over 1,000 yards while playing on the same team. Michael Vick and Warrick Dunn accomplished the feat in 2006 while Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram did it in 2019.

Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon will both rush for 1,000 yards this season

The Green Bay Packers are fortunate to have two running backs that could be starters on most other teams. Both Jones and Dillon are exceptional backs with two different running styles. They are a perfect compliment to each other. Indeed, both have the talent necessary to rush for 1,000 yards, as Jones has done twice in his career.

However, there are some factors that should make it possible for both of them to surpass 1,000 rushing yards in 2022. The first, of course, is the absence of Davante Adams in the Green Bay Packers offense. While the Packers are confident in their young wide receivers, it is not easy to replace a First Team All-Pro. It is very likely that the Packers focus more on the run.

Both running backs have played games with the Packers in which Davante Adams was inactive. Aaron Jones, a five-year veteran, of course, has played in more of these games. In eight career games in which Adams was not active, Jones has 483 rushing yards for an average of 60.4 rushing yards per game. If he were to average that number of yards per game in a 17-game season, he would end with 1,026 rushing yards.

AJ Dillon has played just one game (in which he had meaningful snaps) without Davante Adams. That was last season against the Arizona Cardinals when Dillon had 78 rushing yards on 16 attempts. Now, one game is not a great indicator of how Dillon will perform without Adams in the offense. That being said, 78 rushing yards per game would have ranked sixth in the NFL last season and put him on pace for 1,326 yards per game.

A better indicator, for both Jones and Dillon, is taking a look at their attempts per game and their yards per attempt numbers. Last season, Jones averaged 11.4 attempts per game and 4.7 yards per attempt. In 2019 and 2020, Jones averaged 14 attempts per game and went over 1,000 yards in each season. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that Jones may do so again in 2022. If Jones receives just two more rushing attempts per game, while maintaining an average of 4.7 yards per carry, he will end the season with 1,038 yards (also assuming he plays in all 17 games).

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Credit: USA Today Network

As for AJ Dillon, he averaged 4.3 yards per attempt and 11.0 attempts per game in 2021. Many Packers analysts believe that Dillon may see more rushing attempts this season. If he were to get just three more attempts per game (14), and maintains a 4.3 yards average, he would be on pace for 1,023 yards in a 17-game season.

For the Packers, having two 1,000-yard rushers would be a change from the pass-dominant offense centered around Aaron Rodgers. However, it may be a welcomed change, especially if it leads to more wins in the playoffs.