I know there are many, many fans out there who have strongly held beliefs about the players residing in the Packers' offensive backfield, and about who among them should be on the roster and where they should be positioned on the depth chart. Needless to say, this is all well and good, but I'm here to tell them, and you, that Ryan Grant is the starter, come hell or high water. The only way Kregg Lumpkin is the starting halfback on opening night against the Bears is if there is an amazing run of injuries to all the backs in front of him on the depth chart during preseason. (And even then, I wouldn't put it past Thompson and McCarthy to trade for some kid we've never heard of the week before the game and throw him out there...)
The point is - Grant's job is secure. That said, there is one player who can possibly make a case for taking carries away from him on a regular basis, and it's Brandon Jackson. Not Wynn, not Lumpkin. Jackson. One need look no further than last year's game against Carolina to see how much Jackson has improved from his rookie year. His biggest deficiency is his lack of power, especially inside the 10 yard line. Yes, he can hit a backside crease and get the ball down to the one or two yard line. But once it's goalline time, he just does not have the juice necessary to punch it in. Grant, on the other hand, has more than enough power to get the job done down there, and has shown that on numerous occasions.
Of course, another big problem out of the backfield is the lack of a bona fide pass catching back. Jackson has the reputation there, but really, his hands are mediocre at best. He's not a natural pass catcher. Grant is no better, and much worse at setting up his blocks when he does catch the ball. People are right to decry the death of the screen game in Green Bay and one has to wonder where the disconnect is. McCarthy seems to have them well designed. But none of the backs seem to show the requisite patience with the ball in their hands. Both Grant and Jackson turn and sprint once they catch the ball, never allowing the blocking to materialize downfield. A common site on a Packers' screen these days is a back caught from the side or behind by guys who should have been blocked by the lineman standing a yard or two behind the play. The kid from Northwestern, Sutton, could help in this regard. He has soft hands and seems to be a natural catching the ball out of the backfield. But it's hard to see how they keep him ahead of Wynn. Maybe Lumpkin.
Overall, the running backs on offer are more than adequate. They are serviceable. None of them are special. It will be great to watch how the backfield situation plays out over the course of training camp and preseason, but all the armchair coaches and GMs who think that there will be some amazing ascension from deep down the depth chart are in for a long wait....
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