The Green Bay Packers entered the 2022 season with big expectations for running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon in the passing game, but neither has been as productive or efficient as expected this season.
Jones has 40 catches on 49 targets, but he’s averaging only 6.2 yards per catch and 5.1 yards per target, which would both be his lowest averages since his rookie season.
Dillon has only 17 catches for 109 yards on 23 targets, meaning he’s on pace for half as many yards in 2022 despite handling roughly the same workload in the passing game.
How can this be explained?
Jones’ average depth of target is -1.4 yards (third shortest among running backs) in 2022, meaning he’s getting the majority of his touches in the passing game on manufactured targets behind the line of scrimmage. In fact, 27 of his receptions and 36 of his targets have come on throws behind the line, and he’s gained only 121 yards on those throws (3.4 yards per target). His average depth of target on throws behind the line is -3.4, meaning he’s having to make up a lot of ground just to get back to the line of scrimmage on these plays.
Dillon has four drops, the third most among running backs, and he’s only forced one missed tackle after making catches, so he’s leaving a lot of yards on the field.
Overall, Jones is ninth among running backs in receiving yards despite running the sixth-most routes; Dillon is 41st in receiving yards despite running the 21st-most routes. Jones and Dillon have created 357 receiving yards on 394 routes run, or 0.9 yards per route run. That would rank 37th among all running backs this season.
Jones should probably be used more on targets down the field. On throws past the line of scrimmage, he has 13 catches on 18 targets for 127 yards and a touchdown, and he made a contested catch on two throws over 10 yards, including the touchdown in Washington.
Dillon needs to be better overall. He’s not making much of behind-the-scrimmage throws either (nine targets, 18 yards), dropping too many targets and not making enough defenders miss in the open field. Last season, he caught all but three targets (just one drop) and forced nine missed tackles.
The Packers needed production from the running backs in the passing game in 2022 to help alleviate some of the concerns at receiver and tight end, but Jones hasn’t been as efficient and Dillon’s production has plummeted as the offense has relied on more and more throws behind the line of scrimmage.