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McCarthy on Packers Run Game: WE'LL BE BETTER

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McCarthy on Packers Run Game: WE'LL BE BETTER

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. Photo by Brian Carriveau of Cheesehead TV.

Seeing as you made the suggestion yourself, Coach McCarthy, we obliged.

When asked about the Packers run game during a Tuesday press conference, Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy responded, "We'll be better, I can promise you that. You can write that down, big letters."

With McCarthy at the helm and Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, the Packers have had an explosive offensive for several consecutive seasons, but the ground game has always been a weak point.

While Ryan Grant had back-to-back 1,200-yard rushing seasons in 2008 and 2009, the Packers still haven't had a legitimate game-changing running back since the days of Ahman Green, the heyday of which occurred back during the Mike Sherman era.

The issue of having a reliable running game was no more apparent than during the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers when the Packers had four possessions result in punts, three drives end with fewer than 10 yards gained and Green Bay generally couldn't keep pace with San Francisco offensive barrage.

By contrast, the Niners gained 579 total net yards, 329 on the ground, largely from the one-two punch of quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore.

It took until April, three months later, but the Packers finally made their counter punch. By taking two running backs in first four rounds, it became clear the Packers weren't just paying lip service to the run game any more. They got serious.

For the moment being, it's difficult to envision exactly who will be the starter at the position and what the rotation will look like. Even McCarthy doesn't have an answer for that.

"Expectations for the run game, I don't have a number for you," said McCarthy. "To me, that will sort itself out in training camp. These workouts are great, the teaching, educational part of developing your football team. But you have to get in pads. We need to go and find out what's real and what's perception."

McCarthy is of the opinion that the offseason program for his players, including Organized Team Activities that wrap up this week in Green Bay, is for learning and working on fundamentals. The real test will come in late July with the start of training camp.

That's when second-round draft choice Eddie Lacy and fourth-rounder Johnathan Franklin will prove their mettle.

During the offseason program, the veterans on the team––James Starks and Alex Green––received an abundance of playing time with the first-string offense. But you can rest assured that the Packers didn't select Lacy and Franklin with the intention of riding the pine, at least not both of them.

Based upon their running styles in college, Lacy is a power back with one-cut explosiveness while Franklin displays more quickness, elusiveness and shiftiness.

Lacy told Cheesehead TV in an interview in May that he thinks he can gain 1,000 yards in his first season in professional football, but such proclamations are easy to make at this time of year.

The rookies will join a deep position that also includes last season's late-season hero DuJuan Harris who brought some juice to the running game the last month or so of the year.

Harris will first have to prove he's recovered from recent surgical operation in which a cyst was removed from his right lung, but based upon his play in 2012, he's a good bet to hold at least a part-time role in 2013.

The dedication to the run game goes beyond just the running backs.

Rodgers took it upon himself during a Tuesday interview to mention the difference newly-signed free agent tight end Matthew Mulligan will make in the run game.

"Some other positions, pads makes a big difference," said Rodgers. "If you look at our big tight end that we brought in, I think him in pads, he's going to be a force outside blocking."

Even while some changes on the offensive line appear to have been made more in response to pass protection issues, having Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton on the left side should aid in getting a more balanced attack to that side of the offense.

During the offseason part of the year, it's difficult to assess the offense as whole. Each position on the football field––such as the running backs, tight ends and offensive line––are focused on improving as a unit.

Not until training camp can an offense start to be seen as a sum of its parts. That's when it will be seen if dividends have truly paid off.

Brian Carriveau is the author of "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 carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (41) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

RC Packer Fan's picture

In translation from McCarthy's comments. He has seen some things in OTA's that has him excited.

I really believe that the trio of Lacy, Franklin, and Harris will change the way defenses play the Packers offense.
I also believe that they will use their running backs in the passing game a lot more this year as well.
I see them trying to get Franklin the ball in space.

For the first time since Ahman Green was wearing Green and Gold, I am excited about the running backs.

cow42's picture

i'll believe it when i see it.

Point Packer's picture

But even you "captain cynic" have to admit that the Packers are better positioned at RB this year than they were going into the season last year. Both Lacy and Franklin have great potential and we know that at the very least Harris is going to run hard and get some yards on the outside.

I too, will believe it when I see it. But I also believe this crew has a WAY higher ceiling then the Green/Starks/Benson combo coming into last year.

And once again, no more John Kuhn dives on 3rd and 1. Please.

davyjones's picture

I love the Kuhn dive on 3rd and one...it's almost always good for 1/2 yard.

cow42's picture

yes - there's probably more RB talent this year.

but the guy calling the plays is still the same, the guy coaching the OL is the same, the guys attempting to open holes will be the same.

there going to have to put up some big time rushing #'s early in the season for any opponent to respect their running game.

i just have a feeling that when the sh*t hits the fan and a game is tight, McCarthy will gravitate in the direction he normally does... pass, pass, pass.

RC Packer Fan's picture

There is definitely more talent then they have had in the last 5 years. I'm not saying they have 5 pro bowl running backs, but they actually invested into the position and the talent is much better.

Harris proved when he came in last year that a decent RB can find running room behind their o-line.

I agree my biggest thing is the guy calling plays and the QB changing those plays. However, they both realize that they have to run the ball more, plus if they have more confident in their RB's they will be more likely to call more run plays.

Last year after Benson got hurt and before Harris showed up, what faith could the Packers have in their RB's? None...

This year, they loaded up will prove to be a lot more complete on offense.

Stroh's picture

And it starts week 1, w 120 rushing vs your beloved 9ers! ! That should be adequate to get tesms out of 2 deep safety looks. That will serve quite nicely as our statement game! We'll enjoy a win over the 9ers while you cry youf eyes out!!

cow42's picture

120 is about 30 too high.
Roders will be the #2 rusher in the game.

cow42's picture

g

Stroh's picture

Mark it down in capitals. 120 vs your beloved 9ers!

cow42's picture

i hate the 49'ers, by the way.

Stroh's picture

You hate the 9ers? That's why everyone of their players is a HOFer (in your eyes) while every Packer is a bust, a bust waiting to happen, or a confirmed bust... Got it!

Hell even Kaepernick has revolutionized the game, while the Packers are stuck w/ that Rodgers guy!

cow42's picture

I think the 49ers are good - VERY good.
That doesn't mean I like them.

I think they have more difference - making players than the Packers.
That doesn't mean I like them.

I think they have a better overall roster than the Packers.
That doesn't mean I like them.

And, yes, I believe the move towards dual threat QB's is at hand... and CK is at the front of the movement. I also believe that after next season, the comparing of CK to AR will be a legitimate one. and after 2 seasons there wil be many reasons why some would chose CK over AR (age, athleticism, and value being among those reasons). Just my opinion.

PackersRS's picture

Better is relative.

Better than 20th in rushing? Better than 3.9 YPC?

Yeah, ok, I believe you McCarthy.

Better enough to keep teams from playing the pass every fucking down? We'll see.

Point Packer's picture

The McCarthy you scorn brought you a Super Bowl all of 2 1/2 years ago. We hard cores seem to conveniently forget that.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Your last question is the only important one, the others are just window dressing... Will our run game bring another defender (or 2) into the box??? Man, that'd be sweet.

Evan's picture

3 out of McCarthy's first 4 seasons as coach, he's had a 1,000 yard rusher (Green once, Grant twice). It's only when the RB talent fell off a cliff these last 3 seasons that he's gotten away from it more and more. With as deep a stable as he's ever had, I fully expect to see a renewed commitment.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Completely agree. What faith did he have in his RB's last year? Benson got hurt, Starks is always hurt. Green came off a torn acl, and had his knee problems all year.
Why would he run the ball with that for RB's. Bringing in Lacy and Franklin proves that they are serious about fixing the problems at RB.

mani2packers's picture

We will run all over 9ers week 1. Watch and see!

cow42's picture

um.
no.

Fish/Crane's picture

the 49er's have 54 pro bowlers

Franklin Hillside's picture

Um.

Harris seemed to do fine against them in the playoffs.

cow42's picture

and then McCarthy reverted to McCarthy and stopped calling runs.

exactly my point.

Franklin Hillside's picture

But why won't they run well against them again? McCarthy? That's the sole reason?

So they would run well against them again with a new coach?

cow42's picture

"But why won’t they run well against them again? McCarthy? That’s the sole reason?"

1 - first live action for an OL group all playing new positons.

2 - SF DL w/ a healthy Smith.

3 - McCarthy becoming pass-happy.

4. - Dom's D getting rolled (once again) turns it into a game where the O needs to abandon the run.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Sure did, well, until it obviously became time to abandon the -positive results producing- running game.

Calabasa's picture

I was reading an ESPN story about the Falcons and it mentioned Steven Jackson. At the time I was pissed we passed on him, but looking at it now I'd rather have two promising, cheap, YOUNG rookies than a 30-something eating up cap space and a 3rd-round pick.

cow42's picture

i wasn't a big fan of getting Jackson, but the picks they used on RB's could have been used on...

S
TE
C

Stroh's picture

They alreafy have about 80 TEs. And either EDS or Tretter will be the Center for the next 5-7 yrs.

cow42's picture

they have a bunch of guys, but only one TE who can make a difference in a game.

Bostick
Williams
Quarless
Taylor
Mulligan
Stoneburner

Only Quarless has the potential to possibly be a starting - type player. the rest are just bodies.

---

so you're sold on EDS and an ivy league rookie with a broken ankle...

well that pretty much illustrates the difference between your perspective on things and mine...

you see things the way you hope they turn out.

i see things for what they are.

Stroh's picture

Centers are developed as much as they are drafted maybe more. Wellls 7th rd, basically the same as EDS UDFA, Campen, Winters, McCarren all very late draft or undrafted. No reason EDS can't be next!

I said, next 5-7 years didn't I?! Centers usually have a lot to learn even IF they are drafted relatively high. Not all players have to be high picks to be successful!

I'm sure even your beloved 9ers have a few late round picks or UDFA starting, but their ALL Pro's in your book!

cow42's picture

5-7 years, huh?

I was kinda hoping we could have Rodgers & a capable center at the same time.

Wishful thinking, I guess.

RC Packer Fan's picture

All I know is that when EDS went in for Saturday, Lang played better, and the Packers had a better rushing attack. EDS will be the starting center and will be just fine.

Stroh's picture

Very much see things the way they ARE! EDS was a capable Center and given that he'll only get better at Center playing it exclusively there is no reason whatsoever that he can't turn into another Wells.

Not my fault your Doom and Gloom is on 24/7, except when it comes to your beloved 9ers that is...

RC Packer Fan's picture

I agree on Jackson.
My question is to you, if you don't like the Lacy and Franklin picks, who would you have rather seen them take? You say S,TE,C, but who at those positions would you have liked to have seen them take? I want to see some names, not positions.

I would say that RB was one of the weakest positions on the team, and I love they drafted 2 RB's to turn it from a weakness to a strength.

cow42's picture

TE McDonald
C Schwenke
S Wilcox or Thomas

Lucky953's picture

I believe MM. They will be BETTER at running the ball. They will not be, nor should they be, a run-first team with the top passer in the league. I don't think they're going to be that good at it the first third/half of the season. Too many OL changes. The line will take time to sync but by the time November/December rolls around, they will be consistently gashing teams on the ground. They got Mulligan for a reason. He can out-block Crabtree, no question. Two tight end sets with a guy that can actually run with power forces teams to commit another safety. Voila-more single coverage. IF we can avoid multiple major injuries, this team will be kicking ass in January. I am really excited.

The TKstinator's picture

And the rich get richer.

The TKstinator's picture

I think ILB and S are the Packers' weakest positions. For now. Need EDS and a right tackle to step up too.

Lucky953's picture

I think don Barclay will get it done at RT.

The TKstinator's picture

The front seven now features five first rounders:
Raji, Jones, CM3, Hawk, Perry.

Left tackles are almost always early draft picks. Right tackles can be found all over the place. I hope Barclay steps up and takes the position. If not, I'm confident we can find/develop a RT somewhere.

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