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The Running Back Numbers Problem

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The Running Back Numbers Problem

Everyone and their uncle has an opinion on how the depth chart behind Ryan Grant will shake out after Thursday night. Brian over at Railbird is adamant that the Packers will keep four running backs, saying there's simply no way the team lets go of camp surprise Tyrell Sutton, while Greg Bedard, responding to a readers question in our live blog of this morning's practice, sees the Packers keeping only Sutton due to Jackson's injury, but cutting him once Jackson returns to health.

I have to say, I am completely on the fence on this one.

I really like what I have seen from Sutton. The kid has excellent vision and has been great at seeing the cutback lane, making his cut and getting up-field quickly. And that's the thing, for all the talk of his lack of speed, he plays fast, unlike Wynn who is slow and plays slow. It's a hard thing to describe, but you can see it on tape. There's one play in particular against the Cardinals on Friday night where Sutton sees the backside open up BEFORE it happens. He makes his cut and is up the field for 5 yards before the backside end (the nemesis to the Packers' zone blocking scheme under McCarthy) has a chance to close. That's not a play Wynn makes.

On the other hand, Wynn is a good between-the-tackles runner and an absolute stud in pass protection. And that second part is the key. If Sutton makes this team, it's as the third down back, and if he's the third down back, he HAS to be a lead-pipe-lock in protection. There's simply no way he can be allowed in the game if there's a possibility he might blow an assignment, miss a block or get overpowered by a blitzing safety or linebacker. Does Sutton have the chops? We certainly haven't seen enough in the games, only the coaches can make that determination. But we HAVE seen Wynn do it, most notably last season against the Seahwaks when he had just about the finest game in pass protection I have ever seen out of a back, and this after only finding out he was playing the day before.

Like the coaches say, it's a good problem to have. I like Sutton, I like what he brings to the  team and think he'd be a very valuable asset. And I would not be surprised in the least to see him let go.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (24) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

manolito's picture

Sure, he was a surprise to us because we'd ostensibly never heard of him before the Packers signed him. But TT has stated repeatedly that they aren't surprised at all after their extensive scouting of him at N'western. I guess if you're undrafted and make the team it can be a dark horse story, but they brought him in because they thought he could compete...

...all I'm saying!

CSS's picture

I've been pleasently surprised by Suttons performance as well. However, the two most disposable positions in modern football are running back and wide receiver. The premium on the potential of a tackle (Meridith) or cover corner that can tackle (Underwood) are much, much higher. Teams will chop their roster or hide and sign premium positions where the player flash potential.

Don't get me wrong, not dismissing Sutton. However, I would rather let a third string running back hit the waiver wire than almost anything else.

bucky's picture

As you know, I've been pimping Sutton since day one. I'd like to see him make the team; not just because he's an NU guy (though there is that), but also because he is the best receiver out of the backfield on the roster. That McCarthy has only thrown to him once in the preseason is disappointing, because I think this is where he really excels.

I agree with you that Wynn is currently better at pass protection than Sutton, but I said it last year, and I'll say it again this year- I don't trust Wynn to remember his assignment on any particular play. So far this year he seems to have done ok, but I've watched too often in the past where he running something out of his own playbook. It seems I'm not the only one who's noticed this, either, hence all the references to Wynn's newfound "dedication and work ethic" this season. I think you'll find that won't be a problem with Sutton.

I'll say this- it's clear Bedard doesn't like Sutton at all.

Mr.Man's picture

What's the longest rush Sutton has had this preseason? (The only game I've been able to watch was last week's.) Wynn has several long runs against legitimate first team defenses in actual games on his resume. And what's the evidence of Sutton being a better receiver? His one catch in the preseason? Wynn's looked good catching passes, and Jackson played in the Callahan pass-happy offense at Nebraska. Plus, he's a tiny target.

I agree with Bedard. His kick returns were disappointing and revealing. I'm guessing he doesn't have the wheels to be more than a replacement level back in the NFL. Combine that with his injury history at NU, and he's practice squad material, IMO.

Bad Knees's picture

Thompson & co. will make the correct calls...he rarely misses on player personnel decisions.

packeraaron's picture

"...he rarely misses on player personnel decisions." Did you miss the whole punting fiasco last season? ;)

packeraaron's picture

Mr. Man - fair points, but you can hardly use 'injury history' to win an argument FOR Deshawn Wynn. Again, is Wynn a 'better' receiver? Only the coaches can tell that - we haven't seen practices.

Ron La Canne's picture

Speaking of injuries, "Purple Four" is complaining he has a cracked rib to his "ESPY" buddies. Of course, Childress doesn't know anything about it. He's scheduled to play the entire first half tonight.

With the possibility of Havner as LB and TE there might be a way to carry four backs.

Woodson and Harris will not play Thursday. Jennings is ok but will not play either. Looks like the first teams will only play a limited amount of time. Just like last year.

misterj's picture

Sutton also loves to not follow his lead blocker. This can be good and bad. He could have had the 2pt conversion had he done it, and he got cracked a few times against the Browns when he did this.

PackerFan4Life's picture

Aaron, just wanted to give you the link to see the final preseason game against the titans since I will not be here to give it you all….

http://p2p4u.net/

follow that link and click american football and the game should be there about an hour to game time hope this helps all the packer fans out there who want to see the game!

Jayme's picture

One thing to remember with Sutton as that the Packers were in a bidding war to get him. Apparently there were 4 other teams that attempted to woo him after the draft, with the Packers of course winning. With that much interest already there, his performance in the preseason seemingly cements the likelihood that he will not clear waivers to make the practice squad. Either he will be on the Packers 53 man roster or he will be on someone else's.

PackersRS's picture

So Grant is the feat. back, Sutton can run, Wynn can block, and what can Jackson do exactly???

Keith's picture

It's kind of incredible how former fan darling Kregg Lumpkin is now a forgotten man.

Ruppert's picture

Great comments. I gotta think they'll keep 4 backs somehow, and I think Sutton will make the team.

DaveK's picture

Anything definitive on Jackson's injury yet? If they put him on the PUP list does that still eat up a roster spot for those 6 weeks he can't play?

packeraaron's picture

DaveK - Jackson is not eligible for the PUP.

Jersey Al's picture

As someone else said above, I would have liked to have seen Sutton take a few screen passes. I think that's where he could be dangerous.

And in my own version of bizarro world, I actually agree with Greg Bedard. Sutton's kick returns showed his limits. Knowing what I know about Sutton, that's not a spot I would have put him in.

Nor would I look to handoff to Sutton on the goal line. I think a guy like Sutton can be effective if used in the right situations.

retiredgrampa's picture

In my dreams I know the Packers haven't used Sutton on the screen because they want to spring it on the Bears. "Yawn".

Oppy's picture

Jayme, according to the reports I had read, there were actually about ten teams attempting to garner the services of Tyrell Sutton.

Crazy, isn't it?

WoodyG's picture

Consider this: ... Mark Murphy was AD at Northwestern in Sutton's big freshman year.... Can't hurt to pacify the CEO at low risk.
_____
A. Green couldn't pick up a blitz to save himself when he was traded to GB.... After coaching, he became one of the best.

Ryeguy812's picture

Agree with Woody here, You can coach guys to pick up blitzers but you can't really coach vision and that quick first step into the hole. Sutton makes this team. He was only returning kicks because our main returners were out.
I think Wynn is the odd man out and they'll try and get Lumpkin onto the practice squad. I'd think he'd clear waivers before Sutton would.

buckslayernyc's picture

Sutton gets full pay to stay on Packers Practice Squad Once Jackson is healthy.

Every team will be cutting a back right now that will land on their practice squad, Sutton, like Wynn last year, will be on ours eventually.

Guy is a poor man's Leon Washington, but he is slow straight line....which means they should be trying him at Punt Return, not Kick Return. He looks pretty slow returning kicks.

PackersRS's picture

He has nothing in common with Leon Washington, IMO. Washington is a bullet. He reminds me more of those Broncos rbs that weren't particularly fast or strong, but had great field vision, and could find the open hole quickly. Sutton can be very good because we run the ZBS. I think the coaches see it, and doubt they'll let him go to the practice squad.

bucky's picture

I don't know that Sutton's returns are as bad as some are making them out to be. He's averaging 24.4 yards per return so far this season; last year our regular return guy averaged only 21. He's not breakaway fast, but he gets the ball upfield and doesn't spend a lot of time dancing around looking for a crease that will never develop. He's done fine in this regards.

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