Green Bay Packers: RB3 is a Wide Open Competition this Summer

Running back Patrick Taylor (27) is shown during the first day of Green Bay Packers rookie minicamp Friday, May 14, 2021 in Green Bay, Wis.Cent02 7fs8ckazhyptkyg6hjf Original
Running back Patrick Taylor (27) is shown during the first day of Green Bay Packers rookie minicamp Friday, May 14, 2021 in Green Bay, Wis.Cent02 7fs8ckazhyptkyg6hjf Original /

This is a Green Bay Packers team that is returning many of the same players from the 2020 squad in hopes of making another Super Bowl push. This means that there aren’t exactly a lot of spots up for grabs, but one of the more intriguing training camp battles that will unfold is for that third running back role.

While Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon will receive a bulk of the touches, in the past, Matt LaFleur has discussed the importance of having a third running back that can provide some relief and a few snaps off here and there for the top-two backs on the depth chart. Competing for that third spot will be Patrick Taylor, Kylin Hill, Dexter Williams, and Mike Weber.

Weber was signed to the Green Bay Packers practice squad in November of last season. The former seventh-round pick out of Ohio State by the Dallas Cowboys has no career NFL snaps, but he had a productive college career with 2,681 total rushing yards, including a 1,000-yard season in 2016 and 954 yards in 2018. Weber also has good experience in the passing game with 70 targets over his career, including at least 28 in two of his three seasons, and hauled in nearly 79 percent of those passes.

By PFF’s ($$) grading system, Weber recorded the 11th highest pass-blocking grade among running backs in 2016, but by that same metric, his play really fell off the following two seasons. Although Brad Kelly of The Draft Network called pass-pro a “very solid aspect of Weber’s game.” And as we all know, that’s incredibly important to Matt LaFleur.

Dexter Williams, a former sixth-round pick by the Green Bay Packers in 2019, has primarily been a practice squad player during those first two seasons, seeing only seven career rushing attempts and tallying just 19 yards. While we’ve seen flashes from Williams in the preseason, both there and in practice, we have also seen way too much inconsistency when it comes to catching the ball and someone who has had issues in pass protection.

As we all know and as was previously mentioned, running backs in this offense have to be more than just ball carriers, and the lack of reliability in passing situations and as a blocker has held Williams back. If he hopes to be RB3, he will need to be much improved in those areas.

Then we have Patrick Taylor, who went undrafted last year out of Memphis and essentially had a “red-shirt” year as he recovered from offseason foot surgery. Taylor is an incredibly well-rounded back and fits this LaFleur system quite well. At Memphis, he was productive as a ball carrier, efficient as a pass-catcher, while also displaying the ability to line up in the slot, and was solid in pass protection as well.

While many fans have their attention on 2021 seventh-rounder Kylin Hill — and understandably so — Taylor has just as good of a chance as any to win that job. And speaking of Hill, like Taylor, he brings a diverse skill-set and is of the ilk that LaFleur desires at running back. In 2019 at Mississippi State, Hill tallied 1,348 rushing yards at 5.5 yards per carry, and over his career, he caught 81 percent of his 83 targets.

One area with Hill to monitor — just like with most rookie running backs — will be his ability in pass protection. By PFF’s grading system, he really struggled in that area. However, Jim Nagy of the Senior Bowl told Sports Illustrated that he believes Hill can “hold up” in pass-pro and be a three-down back in the NFL.

At this point, I believe the third running back role will come down to either Taylor or Hill. However, as Packers running back coach Ben Sirmans told reporters earlier this week, the RB3 job is up for grabs, and as always, it will be determined by what the coaches see on the field:

"“It really won’t have a chance to work itself out until we get to the preseason and start playing some real football,” Sirmans told “But everybody, all those guys are well aware there’s an opportunity sitting there, and the other guys know, hey, don’t you sleep on the guys you feel are underneath you because you’ve also got to bring it every day too. They all know their position is pretty much wide open and won’t be decided until we start playing real football.The bottom line is they’re competing against each other, but in actuality, they’re competing against the guys lined up across from them. It’s how productive are you when you’re in the game. That’s not only running the ball, it’s catching the ball, it’s how you are in protection, can we trust you in a game to do the right thing, so it’s all those facets that kind of make up our decision.”"

Of course, at the running back position, we know that the ability to be a productive ball carrier is a must, but I believe this competition will be determined by which back is the more reliable pass-catcher and blocker. Again circling back to what I’ve already mentioned, those are two areas that LaFleur really stresses and their important factors to the overall success of this offense. Being consistent in those areas can help differentiate one back from the rest, and as Sirmans points out, a key element in all of this is having the coach’s “trust” in those situations.

As the title of this article suggests, this competition for RB3 is wide open and won’t be determined until practices kick up a notch during training camp, and ultimately we see how each back performs in the preseason. But this will certainly be one of the more intriguing positional battles to take place this summer.