Packers RB A.J. Dillon shows reliable hands in win over Bengals

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While Sunday’s 25-22 win in overtime wasn’t the prettiest affair for the Packers, there was at least one interesting storyline, the emergence of second-year running back A.J. Dillon’s pass-catching ability.

Dillon rushed for just 30 yards on eight carries (3.8-yard average), but he made up for it by snagging four receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown. Dillon finished the day as the Packers’ second-leading receiver.

The four-catch affair today almost matched his season total prior to today (five catches).

On Dillon’s touchdown reception, he lined up in the gun on Rodgers’ left side. At the snap, he leaked to the flat and up the sideline, where Rodgers found him wide open. Rodgers left the ball a little high, but Dillon adjusted and took it up the sideline for the score. While it wasn’t a “wow” play by any stretch, it did show Dillon’s comfort in catching the ball. For a man of his size, he showed good hands and body control. Sometimes backs look unnatural catching the ball or rely too much on “body catching.” Not the case for Dillon.

When Dillon was drafted out of Boston College, the selection drew criticism because, many believe, there just isn’t enough positional value for a Derrick Henry-type power back.

Here’s Pro Football Focus:

Oh boy. A.J. Dillon was the first player drafted who wasn’t even on PFF’s Big Board. It wasn’t because we forgot about him or that he wasn’t good in college, but it was simply because his skill set is anachronistic for today’s NFL.

Dillon is a bruising power-back who harks back to an era of smashmouth football that has largely been left in the past. Even the most run-heavy offenses in the NFL at the moment rely on speed and space more than they do a 250-pound running back pushing the pile up the middle. There is a big danger that Dillon is a re-run of Leonard Fournette in terms of a player who dominated smaller college competition but just doesn’t have the skill set to do the same thing against NFL defenders

While Dillon certainly possesses some unicorn traits a la Henry, he’s already starting to – if he hasn’t already – prove the evaluators who thought he didn’t have reliable hands out of the backfield. Not only does he appear to have reliable hands, but he also looks like he’s a natural pass catcher.

The Packers have two multi-skilled backs. We know what Aaron Jones can do. It’ll be interesting to see how LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett work in their 2020 second-rounder moving forward.

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