Packers rookie RB A.J. Dillon wants to be more than just a ‘big back’

The gigantic size of Green Bay Packers running back A.J. Dillon made a social media splash during the first week of training camp, but the 247-pound rookie wants to be much more than just another big back.

Dillon, the Packers’ second-round pick, believes he can be a complete player at the running back position.

“Something I’ve always harped on with myself, I’ve never want to be put into a ‘big back’ box. I can help out this team in any way. Legs, arms, hands, I’m trying to be complete in all aspects of my game,” Dillon said Thursday.

The Packers are banking on Dillon doing more in Matt LaFleur’s offense than just trying to bulldoze through potential tacklers with his tree-trunk legs and muscle-packed frame. To fully maximize his value, Dillon must prove capable of producing in the passing game and staying on the field for all three downs.

At Boston College, opportunities to make plays as a receiver were rare. The Packers still feel he has strong hands and the potential to be a factor out of the backfield in the passing game.

Through the first week of camp, Dillon has looked comfortable catching the football in positional drills while also creating a few big plays down the field in the passing game during 11-on-11 work. It’s a start.

Packers coach Matt LaFleur said they’d keep throwing opportunities Dillon’s way to see how much he can handle as a receiver.

All along, the Packers have believed Dillon had underrated ability catching the ball.

Back in April, both GM Brian Gutekunst and college scout Mike Owen said they felt Dillon had much more to offer as a receiver than his collegiate stats – 21 catches in 35 career games – would otherwise indicate. In fact, Gutekunst went as far as to label Dillon as a “all-around back.”

“In our offense, there’s probably more room for his creativity than what he did at Boston College, and a lot more in the passing game,” Gutekunst said. “As we went through the process in the spring, his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield for a man his size was something – again, he didn’t do a lot of it at Boston College – but it was attractive to us.”

Getting better in pass pro is another hurdle all rookie running backs must clear. Dillon said he’s been steadily improving by learning from coach Ben Sirmans and watching the examples set by veterans Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. In time, Dillon should have the size and athleticism to be a blitz-stuffing blocker in the passing game.

If he can create big plays as a receiver and prove trustworthy in pass protection, Dillon will truly shed the stereotypical “big back” labels.

The Packers used a valuable pick on a running back in April. Dillon, despite his impressive size, doesn’t want to be a one-dimensional player. And the Packers need him to be much more.


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