Johnny’s Surprise of the Week: AJ Dillon

Photo via Mike Roemer, Associated Press

As the 2020 NFL Draft got underway, the obvious elephant in the room for the Green Bay Packers was as blatant as could be. 

Franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers needed another weapon. 

In what was a deep wide receiver class, the Packers, even if you gave them some benefit of the doubt for drafting Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in the first round, were expected to pick up a youthful wide receiver (or two) in the later rounds to supplement an already stout and solidified wideout in Davante Adams. 

Benefit of the doubt, however, should have been taken with a grain of salt, as the Packers did not pick up any wide receivers during the draft. Blank. Nada. Nilch.

Who said anything about a wide receiver, though? What about nabbing in the second-round running back AJ Dillon from Boston College?  Surely there could be some value to be tapped into, right? The six foot back tallied over 1,000 rushing yards in all three seasons with the Eagles between 2017-2019, after all.

Up until Week 16, Dillon was a typical reinforcement back behind 2020 Pro Bowler Aaron Jones. In nine games played, the 22-year-old only had 115 rushing yards on 24 attempts to his name. 

Then came the Sunday Night Football matchup against the Tennessee Titans on Dec. 27. 

In what amounted to a snow game by default at Lambeau Field, Dillon’s Packers took care of business. A 40-14 blowout victory against the Titans definitely had its usual heroes. Rodgers tallied four passing touchdowns and 231 passing yards on only 21 completions. Adams continued his complete disregard for double coverage and collected 142 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 11 receptions. Jones even averaged 9.4 rushing yards per attempt, as the UTEP alum collected 94 yards on 10 carries. Even the Packers’ defense was its usual Lambeau vintage, as the collective unit held a potent Titans’ offense to 14 points and mitigated rushing phenom Derrick Henry to relatively mortal totals. 

All excellent performances, for sure. 

But wait, there is more.

Enter the stage, Dillon. 

Over the course of the game, Dillon rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 21 attempts. His 21 attempts were a career game high, as were his yard and touchdown totals (both touchdowns were his first two touchdowns at the NFL level). His 30-yard run sprint on his first touchdown was also a career high. 

Now, it does have to be said. Both touchdowns came late in the third quarter when the game was quickly becoming a rout. Even still, Dillon found his way into the storied Green Bay history books. 

Among all Packers’ rookie running backs ever, only three, in their first 16 career games, rushed for at least 100 yards and picked up at least two rushing touchdowns in a single game: De’Mond Parker (113 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns against the Chicago Bears on Dec. 5, 1999), Samkon Gado (103 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 13, 2005) and Dillon in his game against Tennessee. Dillon, however, stands out even more when compared to the other two in terms of age and where the game took place. Of the trio, Dillon was the youngest to achieve this feat (22 years and 239 days compared to 22 years and 346 days for Parker and 23 years and zero days for Gado) and was the only one to do it at Lambeau Field (the other two performances took place on the road). 

While the performance definitely is not an earth-shattering affair in terms of when it took place during the game, the production by Dillon was still one worth noting. It completely derailed any idea of Tennessee rocketing back, after all.

More significantly, the performance by Dillon gives the Packers an additional weapon for Rodgers to utilize, even if it is not a cherished wide receiver. 

Published by John Crane

I am originally from Alexandria, Louisiana, but have lived in South Carolina, Texas, Arizona and now Colorado. After recently graduating from Northern Arizona University, I am now continuing to sharpen my journalistic craft through writing, radio and podcasting. My dream is to become a sports reporter or broadcaster.

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