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What Should The Packers Do At Running Back?

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What Should The Packers Do At Running Back?

With news surfacing of Cedric Benson having a Lisfranc injury and needing at least 8 weeks off, the Packers running game once again finds itself without an identity. While Benson was not the key to the Packers offense, he was an integral part.

Why Run When You Can Win?

The Packers are not a running team. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, why should they be? The Packers didn’t need a running back in 2010 and they won the Super Bowl. And they didn’t need a running back in 2011 when they won 15 games.

This team is not the team of years past. Aaron Rodgers is now playing at a human level. Donald Driver continues to age and play less of a role in the offense. And Greg Jennings remains hampered by a groin injury.

In the perhaps the Packers poorest showing this year, week one versus the 49ers, Benson played only 37% of the offensive snaps, rushing for a mere 18 total yards. The next week versus the Bears, Benson averaged 4.1 yards per carry and played on 71% of the snaps.

The change was palpable. The Packers didn’t have a grind them out running game, but they had a player who could add depth to their offense and keep opposing teams from blanket covering the Packer receivers.

With Benson out for the foreseeable future, the Packers have some options at running back, they key will be picking the right one.

James Starks

Could it be possible that once again Starks comes back from an injury mid-season and becomes a hero to Packer fans?

In 2010, the Starks legend existed far before he ever played a snap. As Brandon Jackson continued to play like Brandon Jackson, Packer fans then clamored for the previously unknown running back, Starks. He came in, and despite the difficulty of joining a team late in the season, rushed for over 300 yards in the 2010 post season.

But his 2010 success did not carry over to 2011. Starks ran for only 578 yards in 2011 and the Packers offense was primarily one dimensional. His lackluster performance last year, combined with his turf toe injury this season, led to speculation if whether Starks would even make the 2012 Packers team.

James Starks has been back at Packers practice for only a short time and has yet to be active for a game. Is he healthy enough to try to carry the load again? And if he is healthy enough, why have the Packers been reluctant to utilize him thus far this season? Hopefully, as the Packers enter practice this week some of these questions will be answered.

Alex Green

The second year player impressed on Sunday, owning the Packers longest play from scrimmage with his 41 yard run. However, outside of that play, Green rushed for only 14 yards on 8 plays. Dissecting his other 8 rushing plays, he struggled running to the left. The Packers tried it 4 times for a total of minus one yards.

While Green has shown speed, he has also shown a lack of ability to be an every down back. In the Packers system getting 3 yards per carry can be considered a success; however, consistently getting one yard is not.

John Kuhn

Fan favorite, great name for a chant and possesses the ability to move the line of scrimmage. What Green lacks, Kuhn has; the keep your legs moving, move the pile and get an extra yard running style. But what Alex Green has, is also what Kuhn lacks. That flash of speed, the body of a running back. Also, Kuhn, like most players cannot block for himself. Kuhn can’t be the Packers blocker and running back at the same time.

Randall Cobb

The wildcat and Cobra, fun sneaky plays that must exist in the Packers play book somewhere. On an offense that seems to lack chemistry and consistency, Randall Cobb has been the lone standout this season. He makes plays. Rodgers hits him in stride. Minus that whole, running out of bounds late in the game instead of trying to some much needed extra yardage on Sunday, Cobb seems to be overachieving most of the times he touches the ball.

So why not let him be the main running back with a touch of Starks and Green mixed in? He currently shows the most promise, but he is also needed elsewhere. With Jennings still sidelined, with Finley dropping passes and also injured and with Nelson and Rodgers not clicking, Cobb is a much needed presence in the Packers receiving corps.

A Free Agent

It’s a small market, populated by veterans past their prime or slower rookies with limited knowledge of NFL playbooks. Ahman Green tweeted out that he’d be willing to unretired for the Packers, and while a lovely nostalgic idea, there is a reason that Green retired in the first place. He’s too old, too slow, and not what the Packers need.

A Trade

Greg Jennings was the Packers splashy trade bait a few weeks ago, but few teams trade for a groin injury. With the Packers current injuries, it is difficult to find a position where the Packers possess appropriate and talented depth to trade away for a valued running back.

Ted Thompson and the Packers seemed set with the current Packers running back situation, not signing Cedric Benson to the group until mid-August, well into training camp. Did Benson demonstrate the running back need to the Packers coaches and front office, or are they content once again with what they have?

The Packers will most likely stick with what they have and the why run when you can win approach. While not necessarily a bad idea, the players that the Packers do have, the running backs and Rodgers, will have to step it up, as will the play calling, in order to make up for the absence of Benson. If the Packers don’t make any adjustments and continue as they did the second half of the Colts game, it will be a long season.

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 Jaymelee1@gmail.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (86) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Justin's picture

Stick with Green, Starks and Saine. I'd like to see them mix Cobb in the backfield a little more as well. They need to run more when they are up by 20 points.

Evan's picture

I'm about to pay $17 on a James Starks waiver wire claim, so, with my luck, they'll go with Saine.

Chad Toporski's picture

Seriously? I wouldn't put my money on Green OR Starks, since they'll probably timeshare a lot more with Benson out.

Evan's picture

Half serious. I'm gonna put a claim in on Starks (I expect him to at least be given a shot at being the primary guy), but not for $17.

Benson was my leading RB...so, yeah, my RB situation is a little dire.

packsmack25's picture

Is it a 32 team league? If not, I'd like to invite you to my fantasy league next year.

Evan's picture

ha!

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

No shit! No nation like donation!

cheesy4's picture

I say we need more help on the offensive line than we do at running back.Running backs are a dime a dozen in this league,with a 2 to 4 year shelf life.Ted Thompson certainly does not have an eye for an impact running back as he hasn't found one yet.Plus he let Scott Wells go for a has been Jeff Saturday.
Time for MM to give up the play-calling and maybe try and do a little motivating on the sidelines.He could also get in Hollywood Rogers face once in a while.

Evan's picture

Has Scott Wells played a snap for the Rams yet??

Pack Fan in ATL's picture

1 game then IR

Evan's picture

Thanks.

So, yeah, say what you will about Ted Thompson's moves, but not re-signing Wells was one of his good moves (especially at the years and money he was demanding).

cheesy4's picture

Better then 1 year of Jeff Saturday then start all over again? A-Rod isnt getting any younger

MarkinMadison's picture

Agree with Evan, not Cheesy. Either way the Packers would have been starting over again at center next year. Saturday's deal was effectively a 1-year deal. Much easier to swallow than Wells' deal, unless I am way off base in remember the contract he got.

Idiot Fan's picture

Wells was a good or even very good player, but we just couldn't pay him the money. With contracts to Rodgers, Matthews, Raji, and maybe Jennings to come, we just couldn't afford it. You can only pay so many elite-level contracts.

Evan's picture

Yes, I'd much rather have 1 year of Saturday and start all over again then give Scott Wells 4 years, $24 million ($13 mil guaranteed).

Franklin Hillside's picture

Who's awesome?

You're awesome.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Why run when you can win, is great. Except for one thing... We're not winning. At least not at a clip that will get us in the playoffs.

They're going to go with a RBBC, with Starks and Alex. Sigh...

GBP 4 LIFE

Wiscokid's picture

I dumped Benson from my fantasy team and picked up Green. I am so screwed.

cheesy4's picture

Ted Thompson Running back draft picks.
Brandon Jackson
Korey Hall
DeShawn Wynn
Quinn Johnson
James Starks
Alex Green
Ryan Taylor
And then we wonder why we cant run the ball??

Jayme Snowden's picture

Good point.

Definitely does not draft like it is a high priority.

Feels like sometimes he puts more into the line and assumes that a non-star can still do what we need.

packsmack25's picture

Arian Foster was undrafted and Mark Ingram was a first rounder. Who you draft and where is irrelevant. Scouting for pro running backs is probably the least accurate scouting there is.

cheesy4's picture

Please explain to me how scouting for a running-back is the least accurate there is???

packsmack25's picture

Look at the number of running back busts there have been in the NFL recently. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/631329-1st-round-runningbacks-of-this...

Only two of the guys you mentioned earlier as "premier" running backs were drafted in the first round. It's really a crapshoot.

packsmack25's picture

Also, three of the running backs on that list won a Super Bowl....

packsmack25's picture

Pardon me, 4 of them....

Evan's picture

Isn't Ryan Taylor a TE.

packsmack25's picture

Yes, and Wynn was a 7th rounder. So basically, 4 of the 5 RB picks made before the 7th round were on a Super Bowl winning team....

Ryan's picture

"Ted Thompson Running back draft picks.
Brandon Jackson
Korey Hall
DeShawn Wynn
Quinn Johnson
James Starks
Alex Green
Ryan Taylor
And then we wonder why we cant run the ball??"

Ryan Taylor isnt a running back. He was drafted as TE out of college and continues to be a TE with the packers. Do you think the offensive line or play calling has anything to do with the running game??

packsmack25's picture

James Starks career YPC: 4.2
Alex Green career YPC: 4.9
Brandon Saine career YPC: 3.8
Cedric Benson career YPC: 3.7

What am I missing here?

Jayme Snowden's picture

Those ypg are only part of the story. Saine only had 18 rushes, Green had 14.

I never said that they can't stick with what they have. In fact, I said they could and probably will. But I do think they will need to do better than they did in the second half of the Colts game

CSS's picture

I don't think anybody really knows what the Packers have at the position. No team at any level can have a coherent running game when the coaching staff never attempts to establish one.

I believe the offensive line is much better than advertised in this department as well, but you can't get a rhythm with so few attempts over the course of a series/game/season.

cheesy4's picture

I agree!!!! New play-caller please.

CSS's picture

Current play-caller is fine, he just needs the equivalent of a quality control coach or assistant in his ear to understand the tempo of the game and work the middle, crosses, flat, etc. The defense has enough talent that it's ok to play a 60 minute game and take time-of-possession back (keeping your defense fresh). This is not the year to turn these games into a 45 minute track meet and stress a young defense.

Offensive balance, work the game between the hashes, moving the chains is more important than matching last years ridiculous 9+ yards per attempt.

packsmack25's picture

Alex Green had a run for 41 yards on the Packers only scoring drive in the second half. Benson was only averaging 2.9 a pop before going down. In 2012, you just can't win with a RB getting 3 YPC and requiring 20 carries to get in rhythm. Green and Starks both have more big play potential, and that's what this team really needs.

That 3.7 number for Benson is based on a WHOLE LOT of carries, by the way, so the small sample sizes for the other guys are kind of irrelevant. I never liked the Benson signing and I think the coaching staff fell in love with the wrong guy.

cheesy4's picture

I hope you are right on Starks and Green cuz we need them badly if we even have a chance at playoffs.But either they are not an every down back or coaching staff doesn't trust them.
Or the zone blocking scheme and play-calling needs to get trashed.
Because we cant afford to have Rogers getting sacked 8 times a game.

Jayme Snowden's picture

The smaller numbers aren't irrelevant, as you brought their per carry up.

Like I said earlier, I think Green has the speed but his other runs on Sunday were not impressive. They weren't. He had a great run. Which means he has the potential. Interested in that potential, but he will have to step it up to make it work.

packsmack25's picture

They are irrelevant, because the point I was making was that Cedric Benson is a slow, slogging running back that 31 other teams didn't want because he can't get a chunk of yards unless you feed him the ball 30 times. Even with a small sample size, those other backs have proven that they can rip off big runs. You know what Cedric Benson's CAREER long run was? 46 yards! That's it! Green got more than 3 carries for the first time in his career and nearly matched him!

Idiot Fan's picture

Benson has always looked like JAG to me, but people here seem to love him, and, more importantly, Rodgers and MM rave about him, so I figure, what do I know?

But man, when Green came in and showed his burst, it looked other-worldly compared to Benson (which isn't to say that Benson doesn't have other strengths).

packsmack25's picture

Yeah, Benson's strengths are that he doesn't get pushed backward, and he usually makes the right cut. The problem is that those strengths are often over-valued, and his weaknesses are pretty rough.

Walty's picture

That's the important point. Green may be able to rip one off every once in awhile, but he mostly ran into the line and went down at the first contact on Sunday.

Benson doesn't give you 40 yard runs but he doesn't give you a lot of 1 yard runs either. He has the power to pick up 3 - 4 yards consistently, which is something we haven't had in a long time.

We have a passing game for big plays. What we need from our running game is the consistency to keep the defense honest and to simply have a reliable way to move the ball in the second half with a lead.

What we've seen from Green is not any of that.

packsmack25's picture

Whole-heartedly disagree, Walty. Teams aren't going to bring the safeties in if they can stop the RB every three yards. McCarthy and Rodgers had hoped that Benson was magically going to bring the safeties into the box and that they would be able to throw it deep at will. It hasn't worked, because teams fear Benson pretty much zero. Those big plays HAVEN'T been there this year, because everyone has just been able to sit back and wait for Rodgers to force one or for Benson to fizzle out after three short carries and leave a 4th and 1.

cheesy4's picture

What am I missing here?
A premier running back that can at least rush for a 100 yards once in a while in a game and maybe catch the ball out of the backfield.Say like a Arian Foster,Ray Rice Marshawn Lynch,Michael Turner,Frank Gore etc.
Dont you think we are a little one dimensional and most teams have figured us out?

packsmack25's picture

Oh I forgot how there are dozens of premier running backs just waiting to be signed by the Packers.

No, teams have not figured us out. The team is struggling due to their own mistakes and terrible officiating. They're still going to go at least 11-5. Back up from the ledge.

cheesy4's picture

so you only having them losing 2 more games? And who would that be to?

packsmack25's picture

Detroit, @Chicago

Walty's picture

How are they going to beat Houston with JJ Watt rushing off the corner if we can't keep Rodgers from getting sacked less than 5 times a game?

packsmack25's picture

Tune in Sunday to watch and see.

CSS's picture

The league hasn't 'figured the Packers out' anymore than they have in prior years. The successful assumption defensive coordinators function under this year is McCarthy and Rodgers aren't patient enough to play a 60 minute game and consistently try to force the vertical issue up the seem and outside the hashes. They've turned it into a low-percentage game where it's inevitable that the offense falls into terrible down-and-distance, thus flipping the field due to sacks, penalty, etc.

They haven't suddenly discovered how to play the Packers, Packers just haven't decided to part with a predictable script that's not working.

Paul Ott Carruth's picture

CSS...you are spot on. Go back and re-watch the entire 2010 season. McCarthy went more west coast centric, attacking the entire field, deploying checkdowns and crossers and that is when the offense really took off. This is and has always been about McCarthy's attitude and vision as a game planner and play caller.

Idiot Fan's picture

Cobb on some slants is the medicine this offense needs.

Walty's picture

This, this, and this. For the life of me, I can't understand why we aren't seeing at least a little more of what we saw in 2007.

When the offense is having problems moving the ball, do it with high percentage, short yardage passes. We have the talent.

After some success there, we'll be able to stretch it a few times a game with more success.

bigbill992001's picture

As some will say, slants and screens are a passing team's run game.

Devil Doc's picture

I think if the Packers give Alex Green the chance to carry the load, he will surpise us all. He also adds the ability to catch out of the backfield, which our other RBs haven't really impressed, and haven't really had since Jackson left. They need to make plays for Green to get in the open and let him run. I'm not against a RBBC, keeping guys in there that are fresh all game long, but the O-Line still needs to do a better job of blocking.

Tarynfor12's picture

On Cobb as a RB

"So why not let him be our main running back with a touch of Starks and Green mixed in? He currently shows the most promise, but he is also needed elsewhere. With Jennings still sidelined, with Finley dropping passes and also injured and with Nelson and Rodgers not clicking, Cobb is a much needed presence in the Packers receiving corps".

I agree with Jayme and 'one' reason why below.

Cobb may be explosive and run well but as a RB we need to chill on how much he is used as such.I would ask tou to look back at week2 against the Bears at the 9:46 mark of the 1st quarter on his 1st run and how close his season came to a sudden stop on that play.RBs take punishment and Cobb is not a RB..dangerous game using him as one.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I completely agree... I love the idea of using Cobb as a Running Back in situations. But he can't be a full time RB. Do the Saints use Sproles as a full time RB? No...

Also why am I getting the feeling that people are expecting the team to run the balll 25-30 times a game. Its not happening. Yes they need a running game to help maintain balance, but you can do that by passing also.

Spread the field, throw all over the field. Use multiple players, Multiple formations. Don't worry about doing hurry up offense unless you have the defense in the wrong personel and can exploit it.
Also how about some more misdirection plays, screens, reverses, shuttle passes.. I would like to see more variations.

To me they have to start tearing teams apart underneath, running slants and various passes and make the safety's come up, then you hit them with a pump fake and go over the top.

Walty's picture

This. Very well said.

As I mentioned above, I'd like to see some more 2007 in offense.

Cole's picture

I say roll with 15-20 fullback dives per game with Kuhn.

NoWayJose's picture

LOL. Didn't we basically try that in 2010 for a minute?

murphy's picture

Put Rodgers in shotgun, with Kuhn 5 yards behind him so he gets a running start. By the time he hits the pile he'll be an unstoppable force!

Franklin Hillside's picture

I can't stop laughing at "new play caller". That's fantastic.

Do you do a lot of open mic nights?

RON's picture

RODGERS HAS BEEN SACKED 21 TIMES HE HAS RAN FOR HIS LIFE ANOTHER 20 TIMES !HE ALSO HAS THREW THE BALL AWAY AT TIMES.WONDER WHY HIS YEAR IS NOT AS GOOD AS LAST.HOW MUCH PRESSURE CAN A QB TAKE

MarkinMadison's picture

OK THANKS FOR LETTING US KNOW!!!!!!! :-)

Jayme Snowden's picture

#winning

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

SPEAK UP!

CSS's picture

I'LL TAKE THE GARY BUSEY SPECIAL AS WELL, BUT DOUBLE MY CAFFEINE, TOP IT OFF WITH A HINT OF METH AND A SIDE OF COCAINE!!!!

YAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

THAT. SOUNDS. AWESOME. I. WILL. ALSO. HAVE. ONE. OF. THOSE.

Idiot Fan's picture

I DON'T KNOW WHAT WE'RE ALL YELLING ABOUT!!!!

-Brick

jack in jersey city's picture

i love lamp

Cuphound's picture

I don't think that TT drafts running backs and linemen poorly. I think he tends to provide what McCarthy needs to build his offense. I just think that linemen and running backs that more of us would like are not a priority for that vision. Lighter, faster, super-intelligent linemen are just hard to come by. No surprise what he gets tends to disappoint. And if the only reason we have running backs at all is because we want defenses to think might not pass, why not skimp there, especially if we don't anticipate the line will open many holes?

RC Packer Fan's picture

I disagree with the RB drafting. Most scouts said Brandon Jackson was a 5th round-free agent type of running back. He drafted him in the 2nd round.

I feel they have to address the RB position in the offseason. Doesn't have to be a first round pick. Ray Rice, Leshawn McCoy, Matt Forte were 2nd round picks. you can find guys in rounds 2+ that can contribute.

Need to invest in someone.

cheesy4's picture

OK Cuphound,Maybe your right lets just pass every single down and not even have a running back on the roster that will save some $$$ for a lighter, faster super-intelligent lineman????
Could someone tell Grahm Harrel to start warming up

Cuphound's picture

I'm not thrilled with McCarthy's vision. I'm just saying what I think that vision is.

John's picture

Is not MM about the winningest coach in Packers histrory? At this point in his career

Lou's picture

Realizing that a solid running game and a good defense can get you to the playoffs the Bears even with Forte signed (as versatile as Marcus Allen was) went out and signed Bush. Bush would look great in Green & Gold, my guess is he wasn't even considered.

FourEyesBrewing's picture

No love for Brandon Saine? You mentioned a WR as an option but not one of our actual running backs?! I'd love to see what Saine can do. He's not a big punisher, but he can definitely catch out of the backfield. To me he has unexplored potential. May as well give him a few snaps and find out what we have in him.

Jayme Snowden's picture

I didn't mention Saine because he really hasn't been used yet and as our RB options he's farther down on the list right now. He's been active and not used.

I mentioned Cobb because he has been used as a running back and as a "using what we have but adding some diversity" to it.

But I agree that he could be a viable option, for some snaps.

woodson4president's picture

Green n Saine....speed guy who can get tough yards (green) mixed with even more speed and great hands...sounds pretty damn good to me!

woodson4president's picture

Green n Saine....speed guy who can get tough yards (green) mixed with even more speed and great hands(sainerrr).sounds pretty damn good to me!

Tom's picture

I say try Steve Slayton out and he played for the Texans and okay as long as he doe snot fumble, but need a running game cannot be one dimentional and see you in H Town you are my NFC team and want you to start winning again Go Pack.

Mariah Carey's picture

Herbert Goodman is the answer

Displaced Hodag's picture

Not sure why everyone says Green is a "speed" back. He's not. He's a 230 lb RB who runs a pretty average 4.5s 40. Chris Johnson. Jamaal Charles. Those guys are speed backs.

Fish/Crane's picture

Space makes all running backs better. Make space, MM.

Chad Toporski's picture

I really want to know what the hold up is with Saine. Why don't they utilize him more? The must be a reason.

tundraboy's picture

Lots of great posts and points. After reading them I realized it is very simple. We go from one extremes to another. Ran 2 much to prove we can run, eithetr because MM wanted to take the safe way and placate Benson, see what he had blah blah blah. And with Rodgers under siege that extreme is he was always looking to go deep.

Go back to basics and run slants, draws, screen plays like we have for years. Now we do have the talent and quickness for it to really work. I do wish we had some monster O line men so we could protect and run better but maybe these guys are right. They are always on their heels in pass and maybe they would be great at the run. Just not all the time either. We are too predictable. But I think the problem with RBs is the line, what holes are there? No matter who it has been for the last 10 years they always seem to run into O line backs or their other blockers. We could also use a monster blocking tight end. Or even a decent one. That is how so many teams run well. It is not like their are any Jim Browns or Jim Taylors in the league these days or Barry Sanders types. Point is what ever benefits the run only helps the pass so what is there to decide.

Travis Dilweg's picture

Call Buffalo and see if they want to unload Fred Jackson (old, but good mix of strength and speed + a pass catcher) now that they seem to have a superstar in C.J. Spiller. Maybe they'd go for Finley plus a draft pick?

packsmack25's picture

Finley isn't going anywhere, and Ted isn't making an in-season deal. Get over it.

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