The steps the Packers took in 2013 to get away from being strictly a zone-blocking offense were admirable, but it's not as if they abandoned their zone schemes entirely.
Without a doubt, the addition of a top-notch workhorse back like Eddie Lacy helped the transition, and the Packers were able to incorporate many more power elements to their running game this past season with interior linemen like Josh Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith and T.J. Lang pulling in front of Lacy and even utilizing the rare trap.
Perhaps their interest in massive Mississippi State guard Gabe Jackson hints that the Packers are interested in taking the next step and becoming even more of power-oriented offense.
According to NFL.com, Jackson interviewed with both the Packers and the Raiders while at the site of Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala. this week.
Simply interviewing a player may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but the connection between Jackson and the Packers is an interesting one, because the 6-3, 339 lb. offensive lineman definitely doesn't seem to fit the mold of a zone-blocking type of player.
According to Cheesehead TV's own "Pro Football Draft Preview" analyst Paul Guillemette, who's covering the event for Great Blue North Draft Report this week in Mobile, Jackson is doing well in practice but may not exactly be scheme-diverse.
"I still like most of what I see from big Mississippi State OG Gabe Jackson who is going to need to go to an NFL team that still employs a power running game, but as I watch this giant work I still think of Chance Warmack last year," writes Guillemette. "Warmack showed some warts as we watched more film of him leading up to the draft. I see the same kind of player in Jackson, but even bigger."
Many also thought Larry Warford was a strictly a power blocking offensive lineman prior to last year's draft, but as a third round draft choice (of the Detroit Lions), he proved he would have been a very worthy addition to any team.
Jackson is ranked as the fifth overall guard in this year's class and projected to be a third round draft choice by NFLDraftScout.com, the gold standard for outlets covering the draft. He was named to Cheesehead TV's All-Bowl team for his play in the Liberty Bowl win over Rice.
With Evan Dietrich-Smith set to become a free agent this March, maybe one of the Packers' underrated––and yet unlikely––backup plans is to transition T.J. Lang to a full-time center should Dietrich-Smith leave.
Such a move would open the door to a new starter at right guard, where Jackson could fit into the Packers' plans. It's mere speculation at this point, but the Green Bay run game would figure to benefit as a result.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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