The Green Bay Packers are set to open training camp later this month. This is the next in a series of articles previewing the Packers position by position, analyzing the talent on the roster and discussing key questions that are facing the Packers as they begin preparation for the 2023 season. Today we examine the Packers running backs. For our look at the quarterbacks, click here and click here for the defensive line. We will examine another position each day until the start of training camp.

Packers Running Backs: The Starters

Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones gained more than 1,000 yards rushing last season for the third time in the last four years. In 2023, Jones gained a career-high 1,121 rushing yards and placed second on the team with 59 catches.

Jones is a fast, one-cut runner who is a threat to break a long gain any time he touches the ball. He is a hard-worker who took less money to stay in Green Bay over the offseason.

Another thing Jones excels at is catching passes. When he gets the ball in space, he is even more dangerous. Five of his seven touchdowns last season can on pass catches.

The Packers need Jones to stay healthy, which he did last season. He’s only 5’9” and 208 pounds and the Packers don’t want to overuse him and wear him down.

A.J. Dillon

A.J. Dillon is a big back who excels at running between the tackles. He gained 770 yards and a career-high seven touchdowns in 2022.

Most coaches and even Dillon himself were disappointed with Dillon’s early-season performance. He got better as the season progressed and ran with more intensity.

Dillon is in his contract year, so he has a big incentive to shine this year whether his next contract is with the Packers or with another team. The Boston College alum has already expressed how much he loves playing in Green Bay but obviously he has yet to sign an extension.

The strong inside running of Dillon compliments the one-cut speed of Jones and gives the Packers one of the better running back duos in the league.

Fighting for a Roster Spot

Patrick Taylor

Patrick Taylor won the competition to be the team’s third running back last season after starting the year on the practice squad.

The former Memphis star played in 14 games and gained 31 yards on 10 carries while catching one pass for 17 yards.

The Packers know what Taylor can do. He won the third RB job on the strength of his special teams play and pass blocking ability. Those strengths will have to serve him well in the battle for a roster spot this season.

Tyler Goodson

Tyler Goodson is back after spending the 2022 season on the practice squad. The Iowa alum led the Packers in rushing yards last preseason. He is more dynamic with the ball in his hands than Taylor but wasn’t as good a blocker and contributed less on special teams.

The coaching staff liked Goodson’s potential enough to keep him around all year on the practice squad. He now needs to show enough improvement without the ball in his hands to earn a spot on the roster.

Lew Nichols

GM Brian Gutekunst selected Lew Nichols in the seventh round of this year’s draft. The Central Michigan product put up impressive numbers in college but needs to show he’s ready to play in the NFL.

Nichols should at least make the practice squad as the Packers tend to keep their draft picks around. At 5’11” and 222, he’s thick and has a low center of gravity.

The key to him winning a roster spot remains special teams and pass blocking. Nichols will get his chance to prove he can be the answer during training camp and preseason.

Emanuel Wilson

The Packers signed Emanuel Wilson as an undrafted free agent this spring. The Fort Valley State product loves to wear down defenses and recorded big rushing and receiving numbers in college.

He is making a big jump from Fort Valley State to the NFL, but many scouts feel he can be good enough to eventually make an NFL roster.

Wilson is a long shot with this running back group but hopes to make a strong first impression and at least earn a spot on the practice squad.

Three Key Questions

Packers Running Back Question Number 1: Will the Run Game Be Featured More?

With Jordan Love taking over for Aaron Rodgers, will Matt LaFleur lean on his running game a little more, especially early in the season?

The top pair could see more carries although the Packers will still likely be a team that passes more than they run the football.

How they distribute the carries will be an interesting question and how the running backs manage the potentially heavier load will be interesting.

Question Number 2: Who Will Be the Third Running Back

The battle to be the third running back is wide open. Taylor is a known quantity and a steady presence, but Goodson is a more dynamic runner. Nichols is a draft pick, and the Packers tend to keep them for at least a year. Wilson was a very productive back in college.

Special teams will be a factor in deciding who makes the roster as will the ability to pass protect. The team is likely to keep two running backs on the practice squad even if they keep three running backs on the initial 53-man roster.

Last year, they started the season with two running backs on the active roster before elevating Taylor from the practice squad after his options ran out. The need to keep a player at another position may determine whether the team initially keeps two or three backs.

Packers Running Back Question 3: Will A.J. Dillon Have a Big Contract Year?

The future is up in the air for both Jones and Dillon. Jones restructured his deal over the offseason to stay in Green Bay, but his projected cap hit for 2024 is $17.1 million according to That number is simply too high for a running back in the modern NFL. Jones will likely have to renegotiate again to stay with the Packers beyond 2023.

Dillon enters the final year of his entry-level deal and needs a big season to secure a lucrative deal for 2024. Many players have their best seasons in their contract year and the Packers certainly hope that will be true for Dillon as well. He certainly has the incentive to have a big year in 2023.


Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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