Steven Jackson, DeAngelo Williams, LeGarrette Blount, names being tossed around by media and fans as the solution to the Packers running woes. After a game where Aaron Rodgers once again looked human, the lack of dimension in the Packers offense is very real.
Since losing Cedric Benson for part of the season, the Packers have relied heavily on second year player Alex Green. Previous starter, James Starks, recovering from a pre-season turf toe injury, has been noticeably absent from the back field. Even after returning from his injury, the Packers have limited Starks’ role in the offense. Starks was active for the game against the Rams yet didn’t even take the field.
In their last two games, the Packers have averaged 2.7 and 2.5 yards per carry. With Aaron Rodgers as quarterback, the Packers aren’t a team that needs to rely on their running game, but the lack luster performances of the running game and the offense, are cause for concern.
So it seems fantasy football type trades of Finley for Williams or Jennings for Jackson are on everyone’s lips this week. But could a fancy named back really be the solution?
Alex Green is a fast runner. He’s young and lacks some of the field vision required to make the right cuts but the speed is there. Is Green struggling because he is the problem? Or is it something more?
Since assuming the lead running back role from Benson in the middle of the Colts game, Green has actually been pretty consistent. He cannot gain yardage when running to the left. On 32 attempts, Green has gained only 44 yards. That’s an average of 1.38 per carry. In two games, he actually averaged less than a yard per carry when running to the left.
Yet, when Green isn’t running to the left he’s much better. Up the middle he averages 5.29 yards per carry and to the right he averages 2.63. Combined, when not running to the left, Green averages 3.73 yards per carry, and has gained 153 yards.
Is Green simply incapable of running to his left? Or is there something schematically wrong with the left side of the Packers line?
Cedric Benson had more luck than Green when running to the left, but not consistently. In week 3 versus the Seahawks, Benson averaged .75 yards per carry to the left. And in week 5 versus the Colts, before getting hurt, Benson averaged 1.6 when running to the left.
The left side of the Packers offensive line is anchored by T.J. Lang and Marshall Newhouse. Newhouse’s play has been up and down this season, and while Lang is an outspoken player on twitter and quickly becoming a fan favorite, perhaps his, and Newhouse’s, play on the line is also to blame for the Packers running problems.
Sure, if Green had better vision and made better decisions, maybe he’d always bounce off the runs to the left and head to the right where presumably the field would be more open. But at the same time, if the left side of the line was blocking better, Green would be able to run where the play is called and gain more yardage.
In the last two games, 23 of Green’s 42 attempts have been to the left. Despite the poor production, the Packers are running to the left. Until the Packers can find a way to block that side of the line better, no matter who is running the ball, the Packers running game will struggle.
So while the names might be flashy, and trade talk is fun, the Packers do have the tools on their team to make the running game work. It’s about shoring up the left side of the line, getting Starks more reps and Green making good decisions, and sticking with what works and not chasing running to the left when it is not working.
Jayme Joers is a writer at CheeseheadTV’s Eat More Cheese and co-host of CheeseheadRadio. She also contributes to Pocketdoppler.com. You can contact her via twitter at @jaymelee1 or email at [email protected].
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