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Ryan Grant's "Aiming Point"

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Ryan Grant's "Aiming Point"

A common refrain you read from Packer fans on these here interwebs about Ryan Grant is that he often "runs into the backs of his linemen". He truly does run into the line quite a bit.

Why?

I found the following, taken from an amazingly detailed breakdown of zone blocking over at Dawgs By Nature, (hat tip: Football Outsiders) of particular interest:

Unlike other runs, there is no predetermined gap through which the ballcarrier is looking to run in the stretch play.  The running back has an "aiming point" where he will begin running, but is coached to survey the line quickly, then plant his playside foot and make one cut vertically up the field through the gap of his choice...

Grant has improved in this area, to be sure. But there are still times when he seems to run toward the "aiming point"... and just not stop.

That said, I was giving Grant some major props last night while I was watching some film from last season. I don't think people fully appreciate how good he was in that playoff game. If McCarthy had been able to be a bit more balanced from the start, I think Grant would have turned in a Dorsey Levens-in-his-prime type performance that day.

Here's hoping he doesn't take two or three months to hit his stride this year, because if he's the back we saw last January in Arizona, the offense will be even more unstoppable.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (26) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

CSS's picture

I'm really impressed with Grant during the latter-half of every season. He gets stronger as the season progresses and tends to fall forward, fighting for additional yardage (without losing the ball like his peer in norse-land). Huge positive, underrated part of his game.

That being said, you really like a back with good peripheral vision that can see laterally, not just vertically, as he runs towards that 'point' in the line of scrimmage. This is where I get frustrated with Grant. He leaves yards on the field as a byproduct of having (my theory) below average peripheral vision. He's a vertical runner (strength) that gets north/south, he misses that little latteral slide that leads to substantial yardage.

No complaints, he turns it on when you need him late in the season, but he leaves positive yardage on the field where he would also take less punishment.

My 2 cents.

packeraaron's picture

"...he turns it on when you need him late in the season, but he leaves positive yardage on the field where he would also take less punishment."

Perfect summation there.

nerdmann's picture

This is why I like Jackson better. Jackson imo, not only has better vision, but the dude can cut on a dime.

Graffin's picture

If he could stay healthy a whole season that would be a start. In the limited role he has when healthy he has been adequate, a few above average plays in 08. He'a a number 2 back.

nypacker's picture

It's no coincidence that Grant really got the wheels rolling after Green started taking a few more snaps. IMO we need someone to push Grant all the way throughout the season. It very well explains the James Starks pick.

Franklin Hillside's picture

Green was not brought in to push Grant, rather he was brought in to spell him.

PackersRS's picture

Tendency from Grant. He's a late-season type of guy. Don't know why. But it's been like this since he got here (yeah, I know, hist first season he only played late, and then he was injuried the start of 2008...).

Here's to hoping he, as well as the rest of the team, starts hot and finishes hot this year.

CSS's picture

Bedard was really high on Brandon Jackson in OTA's. Consistantly said he looked fluid, explosive and quick. IF we see that Jackson as the season begins and IF he stays healthy it obviously has a seriously positive impact on Grant and the entire offense. I'm anxious to see the kid put it all together and keep Grant fresh.

PackersRS's picture

Bjax was, after all, a 2nd round pick. I know it doesn't matter much where the guy is picked, but it tells that the management saw something in him that was worthy of a 2nd round selection. He needs to stay healthy. People talk about Harrell, and Lee, but he's had some major problems in staying on the field.

Tarynfor12's picture

My take on Jackson is simple,if he couldn't take it or come close to taking it from Grant by now it won't happen now either.We agree that Grant starts slow and Jackson apparently was even slower.He's probably happy with a back-up role and a paycheck for it.
Starks I believe is hungry and full of desire and brings more to the table and may be the early fire starter that Grant needs.
I don't want Grant over used to compete with Starks and suffer from that in the latter part of the year,but a little more zest earlier won't hurt.

CSS's picture

I don't know that anybody is implying or stating that Jackson will take over starting duties. Speaking for myself, I would like to see more of him to spell grant and be a legitimate threat in the passing game and open field, not just an outstanding pass blocking specialist. The two headed back system is the NFL trend and I think the Packers offense will be even better if Jackson stays healthy, spells Grant and makes the screen game a threat once again.

Starks has great tools and I'm hoping he's a steal. That being said, Jackson's big knock has been staying healthy while Starks has the poorest track record of injury/injury history of any draft pick since Justin Harrell.

Personally, I view Starks as a bonus if he stays healthy and shows the apptitude to be an NFL back. As of now, he can't block, not sure how well he catches consistently out of the backfield, runs upright and didn't stay healthy at all in college. Are fans really putting their hopes into Starks as anything more than an exciting developmental prospect?

Tarynfor12's picture

Poorest history of injury since Harrell?Missed senior year from shoulder injury.What other injuries did he have as he racked up rushing records,please share them.
The other traits you mention are the same for all rb's as rookies pretty much.

CSS's picture

Missed 6 games in 08' with a knee injury and hamstring/ankle issues his redshirt year. He definately played with injuries but it isn't exactly encouraging to start OTA's with a non-contact hamstring injury.

I disagree that he's like any other rookie. Few if any rookie running backs enter the league with a lean 6'2" frame that run upright. His frame and style will invite injury at this level of play. I'm not discounting his production in the MAC, but I believe he has further to go than most fans believe to make an actual contribution his rookie year.

Franklin Hillside's picture

There is no competition for Grant's carries. None. Nor should there be.

ZaphodBeeblebrox's picture

I'm looking for Starks to make a big push as a kickoff returner. Someone who can get up a good head of steam and hard to bring down- kind of like Davenport did the brief time he was one.

Since he is also a good out of the backfield it'll be interesting to see Starks compete with BJack for that role (Jackson's blitz pickup has been great)...

CSS's picture

This is one of the items you consistently see behined the scouting report of Starks: "Liability as a pass protector."

He has no chance of supplanting Brandon Jackson as the second running back provided that phrase appears behined his name.

I will be interested to see what he has to offer in the kick return game.

packeraaron's picture

To be fair, that was exactly the same description used of Brandon Jackson his rookie year. I agree though, unless Starks shows he can get it done during preseason, no way he takes much time away from Jackson on many passing downs.

PackersRS's picture

I know you said it yourself, but...

Bjax block has improved dramastically since his rookie year. It's the difference from Cris Carter blocking Reggie White and Walter Jones blocking Brady Poppinga.

Don't know many players that can achieve this kind of improvement.

bomdad's picture

I'll take Grant, who shows up big in playoff games over all the APs, LTs and other two letter sucks who fumble and get hurt in crunch time. Frankly I dont care how he runs in September. As for having a "change of pace," running the ball is the Packers change of pace.

cow42's picture

love this post.
you are the man.

jerseypackfan's picture

Thanks for posting this Aaron. I often wondered why Grant ran into his players so much as well. He definitely was not Ahman Green in his prime. Who by the way, did find the hole but always seemed to fumble once he got out out of there.

NickGBP's picture

Not only is he stronger late in the season, but just as important he's stronger late in the GAME. There were 3 or 4 games this season where we were really able to grind out the clock and win the game, all on Grant's shoulders. That's exactly when you need to be able to run and that's when he's at his best.

WisconsInExile's picture

I wonder just how much ownership of this problem Grant shares with the offensive line, particularly the guards. I think his late season bloom last year had more to do with the o-line finally gelling than anything on Grant's end.

Zone blocking is a high risk/high reward system. It's hard to do well, hence the popularity of Power O. If you look back last year, many times the guards failed to penetrate and were consistently beaten. That will take any back out of the game. When they do their job well, like the game against the 49'ers, Grant tends to shine.

I think Grant has pretty good lateral vision. It's just often, the gaps that did open up last year tended to have incoming linebackers in them. Quite a few times he managed to see this, and turn what would have been a crushing beat down into a small gain. His YPC were frankly better than they should have been given the poor play by the line for most of the season.

wgbeethree's picture

Just my opinion but I don't think you could be farther from correct about the guards being the problem with the run game. IMO Clifton and Tauscher are probably the worst run blocking tackle tandem in the league (which is "ok" because they are far superior than any other option weve had in the passing game and we are a pass first team) and are clearly the reason the ZBS hasn't reached its full potential. Grant runs much better inside the tackles despite that usually being considered the "tougher" place to run. The "stats" seem to back up my opinion in this matter for what its worth. Over his career (all in the Green Bay ZBS) Grant averages .2 ypc more on rushes inside the tackles ("left" "middle" and "right") than he does on rushes outside the tackles("wide left" and "wide right"). He averages a touchdown every 31.2 carries inside the tackles and every 39.1 carries outside the tackles. Those could simply be statistical anomalies but if you respect the "ratings" at profootballfocus.com they have the guards as much better run blockers than the tackles.... Sitton (6.0) Colledge (3.0) Clifton (-4.6) Tauscher (-7.1).... or footballoutsiders.com which has offensive line stats and according to them we had the BEST yards per carry in the league last year when running up the middle or behind the guards it's hard to lay the blame for the "lack of success" in the ZBS on the interior of the line.

Dilligaff's picture

A good and consistent running game is a well coordinated dance between the running back and the O-line.

IMO some of the flaws (inconsistency) in Grant's performance has to do with the inconsistent play of our O-line. The same could be said for Jackson too. I believe once we get the O-line settled, we will see a dramatic increase in the effectiveness of our running game.

Lets face it, last year the O-line had its issues, just barley pulling itself together.

WisconsInExile's picture

Wgbethree,

Well said. I don't think we're as far apart as you suspect. I was going by my imperfect memory, so I'm not surprised by the numbers. I wasn't laying blame _only_ on the interior. Scott Wells excelled at run blocking, so I'm not surprised that the numbers look better for Grant coming through the interior. I think Wells earns a lot of credit there. Plus, Clifton's weakness in the run game goes without saying. I don't want to imply the guards were all to blame, but I do remember watching the guards get walked right into the backs on more than one occasion.

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