More expected from Packers RBs Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon in passing game

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Replacing the production of Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the Green Bay Packers passing game won’t fall squarely on the remaining wide receivers on the roster. Running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon are capable receivers and should be expected to see more targets and create more production for an evolved Packers offense during the 2022 season.

Last year, Jones and Dillon combined to catch 86 passes on 102 targets for 704 yards and seven touchdowns.

It would be surprising if both the catches and targets didn’t increase in 2022.

With fewer plays designed specifically for one receiver in the playbook, coach Matt LaFleur and quarterback Aaron Rodgers now have the freedom to find creative ways of getting the ball to Jones and Dillon in the passing game.

Having Dillon entering Year 3 after leading the Packers in rushing last season is a big reason why LaFleur should be able to use Jones in more creative ways, especially as a receiver. There are ways of getting both on the field together and using Jones in multiple alignments, and the Packers don’t have to fear overusing either player because the team sees both Jones and Dillon as legitimate No. 1 backs.

Jones hasn’t necessarily been dynamic in the passing game. He has averaged 7.9 yards per catch and 5.8 yards per target over his five-year career, and only once has he averaged more than 8.0 yards per catch or 6.0 yards per target during a single season. So the Packers do need to get better at maximizing the efficiency and production of Jones’ touches in the passing game. But everything about his skill set screams untapped potential as a receiver. He has terrific hands, an explosive lower body for winning within routes and the shiftiness to make people miss once he has the football.

The 247-pound Dillon was a revelation last season as a receiver. He caught 34 of 37 passes, averaged 9.2 yards per catch and 8.5 yards per target. Wanting to be an “all-purpose back” in 2022, Dillon said he’s put work into becoming a more well-rounded player, both as a runner and receiver. He already showed soft hands and an ability to make something happen after the catch in 2021.

Together, Jones and Dillon have the ability to carry more of the load for the Packers offense in 2022. They could each get more carries for a team that is configured to run the ball at a higher rate, but both are also capable of picking up some of the slack in the passing game. Most importantly, they have a coach who is willing and capable of designing plays to get them the ball in space.

Passes to running backs are generally safe, high percentage plays. Call them easy yards. The Packers should prioritize more of them in large part because Jones and Dillon are two of offense’s best weapons and LaFleur and Rodgers are going to need more easy completions without Adams’ ability to get open and Valdes-Scantling’s threatening downfield speed.