Best & Worst Case Scenarios: Running Backs

From a season that sees Ryan Grant score double-digit touchdowns to the end of Quinn Johnson's road in Green Bay, we look at the best and worst possible outcomes for the running backs in 2011.

It's time for the fifth annual Best and Worst Case Scenarios for every player on the Green Bay Packers roster, a feature that goes back to the days when Railbird Central had its own domain.

I attempt to take a look at what is the very best possible season a player is capable of producing, and on the other hand, what would happen if a player fell flat on his face (without assuming they suffer a season-ending injury). These are intended to be extreme scenarios on both sides of the spectrum. More than likely, each player is going to fall somewhere in the middle, but every now and then, they just so happen to come to fruition.

As one final note, I also try to take a look at what these scenarios would be from an individual standpoint and not what's best for the team.

Ryan Grant

  • Best-case scenario: Grant proves he's fully recovered from last year's ankle injury, and while he can't stop James Starks from getting his share of carries, Grant still gets a majority of them. Grant starts every game and gets three to four carries for every one to Starks. He tops 1000 yards rushing, barely, and thanks to a prolific Packers offense, he's able to get double digit touchdowns––again, barely. Grant also takes a majority of the short-yardage and goal-line carries generally given to John Kuhn a year ago.
  • Worst-case scenario: Due to his injury and age catching up to him, Grant just doesn't show the explosiveness and the power he did in his first couple seasons with the Packers. He starts the year by getting a majority of the carries, but by season's end, he's passed up by Starks. There's still a role on the team for him, however. He's a change of pace to Starks, which helps to keep both of them fresh. And he's a good locker room presence. But he only gains somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 yards and a handful of touchdowns.

James Starks

  • Best-case scenario: Starks is too talented to keep off the field. He gets almost a 50/50 split of carries with Ryan Grant to begin the season, but by the end, he's getting the majority of them. He doesn't quite hit the 1000-yard mark, but he's not far off. Starks finishes the year with nearly eight touchdown in the regular season and makes it generally known that the featured back role is his exclusively next year. He has the highest yards per carry average on the team, breaks off at least two carries of more than 50 yards and leads all running backs in receptions.
  • Worst-case scenario: When Ryan Grant looks good and healthy, Starks plays second fiddle. And that's no indictment of Starks or his talent. His future is still bright. But with Grant playing so well, Starks rarely––if ever––receives more than 10 carries in a single game. He gains more than 400 yards, a couple hundred more through the air and scores a couple of touchdowns.

Alex Green

  • Best-case scenario: Green finishes the exhibition season strong and is able to become the Packers' primary kick returner. He doesn't exactly thrill anyone in that role, but at least he's sure handed. As time goes on and he becomes more comfortable with the offense and what the Packers ask him to do, he eventually develops into a third-down back role by the end of the season. He gains a little over 100 yards rushing on the season, but more than doubles that receiving to go along with a touchdown or two. It's enough to prove his future is bright, and he starts to remind people of the Rams' Steven Jackson.
  • Worst-case scenario: Green can't wrestle the kick return job away from Randall Cobb, and when he can't prove reliable in pass protection, the Packers by and large keep him inactive on game days. He'll get a handful of chances before the season is over, but he's lucky to gain any more than 100 yards from scrimmage and hit paydirt once, if he's lucky. The season isn't a waste, however. He'll enter 2012 with a chance to earn much more playing time than in 2011.

Dimitri Nance

  • Best-case scenario: Nance has a chance to make the 53-man roster if there's an injury ahead of him, but it's hard to envision the Packers keeping four running backs or cutting a third-round draft choice. I don't think he's practice-squad eligible anymore, unless the rules have changed with the new collective bargaining agreement. If so, he's able to latch on somewhere else in the NFL.
  • Worst-case scenario: Nance is cut in the first roster cutdown date to 75 players following the third preseason game when it's evident that the two rookie running backs, Alex Green and Brandon Saine, have more upside. Because he's not practice squad eligible, he has a hard time finding a team willing to open a spot for him on a 53-man roster. His career unceremoniously comes to a close, but at least he'll always hold a spot in Packers lore as a member of the Super Bowl winning team.

Brandon Saine

  • Best-case scenario: Saine is raw, and he's not exactly a threat to stop a burly pass rusher in his tracks while in pass protection. But the skills are there. He's fast, he has fantastic hands for a running back and displays a surprising burst of power. The Packers like him enough to ask him to be on their practice squad, and if injuries occur during the regular season, there's a slim possibility he could make the Packers' or someone else's 53-man roster before the end of the season.
  • Worst-case scenario: He might have a good set of hands, but that alone is not enough to make it in the NFL. He has good speed too, but so do plenty of other backs. As such, the Packers cut him and don't ask him to be part of their practice squad. If he's lucky, maybe there's a team out there that will.

John Kuhn

  • Best-case scenario: Kuhn fills a "Jack of all Trades" role with the Packers. He no longer splits playing time with Korey Hall or Quinn Johnson as a fullback. If the Packers employ a fullback on any particular play, Kuhn is it. He continues to get carries as a short-yardage and goal-line back, and as a result, has a handful of touchdowns once again. And because he's a reliable blocker and receiver, Kuhn fills their third-down back role as well and has two touchdowns receiving by the end of  the end of the year. He's always on the field whenever the Packers go to their inverted wishbone, and he plays a little bit of special teams to boot.
  • Worst-case scenario: Though he remains a folk hero in Green Bay and a good locker room guy, Kuhn's role on the team is significantly reduced from a year ago. He still sees time as a fullback, but he shares some snaps with Quinn Johnson. And he gets an occasional carry in short-yardage situations, but Ryan Grant takes most of those away too. The same goes for third downs. Kuhn might get some snaps, but so do James Starks and Alex Green. His biggest contributions might come on special teams.

Quinn Johnson

  • Best-case scenario: The Packers decide it's too risky to keep simply one fullback on the roster, so Johnson sticks around for another year. Whenever the Packers need a lead blocker, he gets the call more often than John Kuhn. He even scores his first career touchdown as a professional on a pass out of the backfield.
  • Worst-case scenario: When the Packers keep five tight ends and one fullback, Johnson is the casualty. He's exposed to waivers and gets some attention from teams that have a power running attack.

Jon Hoese

  • Best-case scenario: Because the Packers decide to keep only one fullback on their 53-man roster, they feel the need to have another in their back pocket in case John Kuhn gets hurt. Hoese is asked to be part of the practice squad and signs a futures contract with the Packers at the end of the season to come back and compete for a roster spot in 2012.
  • Worst-case scenario: The NFL just isn't a good spot for a fullback looking to break into professional football. Whether or not the Packers keep one fullback or two, it doesn't matter. Hoese is released and not asked to be part of the practice squad.
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Comments (2)

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Chris K's picture

August 19, 2011 at 02:14 pm

Packers will keep two traditional FB's. QJ behind J. Kuhn. I dont want to hear all this baloney about 1 true FB and five te's---aint gonna happen even if Quinn sucks on ST's which he does. Crabtree nor Taylor are what either of those two FB's are running and blocking inside.

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PackerAaron's picture

August 19, 2011 at 02:21 pm

"I dont want to hear all this baloney about 1 true FB and five te’s—aint gonna happen"

Rewind to Chris K the last two summers:

"I dont want to hear all this baloney about 3 fullbacks —aint gonna happen"


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