Cory's Corner: Christine Michael deserves the ball

Mike McCarthy has been saying the same thing for years.

“We have to keep stressing the running game.”

The problem is, he really doesn’t believe what he says. If he could send six receivers out on every play, he most certainly would.

Granted, this team isn’t exactly built for three yards and a cloud of dust. The offensive line has much better pass blockers than run block road graders. And the running back position has been a revolving door this season.

However, the weather has turned in Wisconsin. Snow Globe 2.0 proved that. Aaron Rodgers admitted after the game that it was tough to gain footing on a slushy and squishy Lambeau Field.

Timing, especially in the delicate Packers offense, is nothing to mess around with. A receiver that is late on his cut could mean that Rodgers has to hang on to the ball a little bit longer. That whisper of time in the NFL means more quarterback pressure, which could be dicey, especially with Rodgers nursing a sore hamstring.

The answer is with a running game. And no, I’m not talking about Rodgers, who has 60 percent of the running touchdowns on just 18 percent of the carries.

Christine Michael can be the workhorse. He just needs to be trusted with the ball. Michael didn’t get his first carry until 14:00 left in the second quarter and he looked strong. But he only received nine carries.

McCarthy can give the running game all the lip service he wants, but he needs to follow it up with action. Even if the weather hadn’t turned nasty yet, it’s a lot easier to salt a game away when the running game is an actual threat.

McCarthy has been called a quarterback guru and is more known for route trees and rollouts than jump cuts and pulling guards.

But now is the time. The Packers are 6-6 and will claim the NFC North if they go 3-1 over the final four games. The best way to do that isn’t with having a stellar running back, it’s by having a coach that allows a running back to succeed.

Rodgers is the reason the Packers have climbed back to .500. He has looked downright amazing at times this season. He needs to be given the confidence that he doesn’t have to do everything on offense. At any given moment, he can turn around and not know whom he is supposed to give it to. On Sunday, he gave it to five different players and he has handed off to nine different players this season. Notice, I didn’t say running back because receiver Ty Montgomery has the Packers’ fourth-most rushing attempts.

The Packers are still a question mark because we don’t know how good the offense can be when utilized to maximum efficiency. Even if Michael is still unsure with some packages, sets or even pass blocking, that falls on McCarthy for not paring down the playbook to get him on the field.

I realize the NFL has become a passing league. The running game has taken a backseat to quarterbacks throwing it all over the place against defenses that can’t do much of anything to stop it.

However, the equation changes when a blanket of bad weather covers much of the country. You may not want to hear this, but the Packers are a dome team for the simple fact that Green Bay cannot turn into a chameleon and change its colors if something is stopped.

James Starks has been given plenty of chances, but has proven that he isn’t a featured back. The time has come for Michael to be allowed to succeed. 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (38)

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RCPackerFan's picture

December 06, 2016 at 06:48 am

'Christine Michael can be the workhorse. He just needs to be trusted with the ball. Michael didn’t get his first carry until 14:00 left in the second quarter and he looked strong. But he only received nine carries.'

3 of his 9 carries also came on the last drive of the game when they were trying to burn as much of the clock as they could.

Watching this game I kept thinking how this game was tailor made for Lacy. This was the perfect game for Lacy's size and running style.

When Michael came in he was productive right away. I believe his first carry went for 7 yards. This was after Starks ran 4 times for 1 yard. Each week I think we will see Michael get more snaps per game.

Moving forward I think the running game should be divided up between Montgomery and Michael for the most part. IMO, between the 2 of them they should be about 90-95% of our run game. With Ripkowski receiving the rest.

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Beep's picture

December 06, 2016 at 08:27 am

The run game will be divided up the rest of the way and Michael will get more carries as soon as he learns the playbook and blitz pickups. He already is an average to poor pass blocker and we can't have AR12 getting killed because Michael hasn't learned our zone blocking scheme yet. Give it time.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

December 06, 2016 at 12:18 pm

So, we can have WRs in the backfield and never worry about their pass pro, but when its an unknown RB we question his ability? Hmm.

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Nelson Cobb's picture

December 07, 2016 at 08:47 am

Maybe that has to do with the fact that Ty Montgomery has been pretty good with his pass protection.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

December 07, 2016 at 01:16 pm

Fact? Pretty good? Oh.

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Beep's picture

December 07, 2016 at 12:25 pm

Ty has also been around the offense for 1.5 years so he knows the audibles.

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Handsback's picture

December 06, 2016 at 07:34 am

I think this is Starks last season. Is CM the answer? I don't know. Ty seems to be at least a very good 3rd down back and maybe more. If the Pack signs Lacy long term or not...we will find out if CM is the answer, but he's better than the current option of Starks.

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dobber's picture

December 06, 2016 at 07:53 am

I agree in that Michael gives them a more talented runner. He is better than Starks at this point, even if he's only a 2-down back and cedes passing down usage to Starks, Monty, or Ripkowski. I think he stays with the Packers next year regardless of how he shows over these remaining games. I think the Packers will try to bring Lacy back on a 1-year deal and draft a RB in the middle rounds.

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Tundraboy's picture

December 07, 2016 at 07:53 am

Works for me.

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RocsCave's picture

December 06, 2016 at 07:43 am

"The time has come for Michael to be allowed to succeed."

Allowed to succeed because every team thus far has ' denied' him the the chance. He has had opportunities and his failings are his for not impacting to a degree worthy to retain.

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dobber's picture

December 06, 2016 at 07:47 am

It says a lot that even behind Dallas's OL last year, he couldn't do anything to wrest the starting RB job from aging Darren McFadden...who did run for 1000 yards behind that OL.

All the Packers can hope for is that Michael realizes that he's in the process of washing out of the league and that he needs to step it up.

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dobber's picture

December 06, 2016 at 07:58 am

I dislike the word "deserves". It reeks of entitlement. If it were "has earned the chance", that would be different, but he hasn't done that yet. In this case, I think "deserves" is miscast because it sounds better than saying, "Christine Michael is the only true RB the Packers have left who has a chance to be productive".

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Nelson Cobb's picture

December 07, 2016 at 08:53 am

Whether you wanna say Montgomery is a RB or not, it's become pretty clear that he's actually the best RB they have, and it's him where they have the best chance at a productive run game. He needs to start getting 60-70% of the snaps and more touches, and it makes no sense if he doesn't, because all he's done is produce out the backfield, whether it be running or working in the pass game.

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Nick Perry's picture

December 06, 2016 at 08:13 am

Cory writes..

"McCarthy can give the running game all the lip service he wants, but he needs to follow it up with action."

Don't recall a truer statement than this on CHTV in a while. Every week we hear McCarthy give "Lip Service" about doing this or that, getting this or that player more involved, yet at the end of the game that Sunday nothing he talked about comes to fruition.

Starks can't seem to see the hole if his life depended on it. Montgomery really is a nice option, I'd love to see what he could do for 4 full quarters. My guess is he'd have over 125 yards from scrimmage every week but we'll probably never know, not with McCarthy. Michael IS a RB, one that deserves a chance especially this week. I'd imagine the "Chip" on his shoulder this week would rival Rodgers in 2005. The Packers aren't going to throw the ball all over the place on the Seahawks with or without Earl Thomas and with Rodgers hammy hurting. But Michaels is the best RB on the Packers roster. He's better than Starks and Rip, might even be better than Montgomery though I doubt it. It's time to find out, I mean what could McCarthy possibly be waiting for with 4 weeks left?

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RCPackerFan's picture

December 06, 2016 at 09:03 am

'Every week we hear McCarthy give "Lip Service" about doing this or that, getting this or that player more involved, yet at the end of the game that Sunday nothing he talked about comes to fruition.'

I agree, although McCarthy did make that change in this game. Starks played 7 snaps total. Essentially benched after the first 2 drives. He also talked about getting Montgomery more involved and he was. He played the most amount of snaps that he has since Chicago.

I would like to see more designed plays to go to Montgomery, especially in the passing game. The quick passes to Montgomery are essentially a run play, and it gets Montgomery the ball in space.

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Nick Perry's picture

December 06, 2016 at 09:42 am

You know I agree with you on Monty, and I guess he did move away from Starks after the first few series even though he thought it was a good idea to put him in at the start of the 2nd half. We now have 12 games of Starks doing next to nothing for most of those games.

Monty is about 1/2 inch short of 6'1", weighs anywhere from 211 to 221 depending where you look. He's definitely big enough to be a RB in the NFL. He may not be the best in short yardage situations, but I trust him more than Starks. As a receiver out of the backfield there's no comparison, he's hands down the best option the Packers have. Bakhtiari said the other day "Montgomery has muscles on muscles". I think with 4 games left if the Packers are to have any chance, they need to put those muscles to work. Remember what a hard time Seattle had with defending Vereen out of the backfield in the SB? Montgomery could do much of the same IMO. I'd like to see a combination of Monty and Michael moving forward. Like you said yesterday, Montgomery always seems to fall forward.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

December 06, 2016 at 11:52 am

I wish they would use Monty just like David Johnson.

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Razer's picture

December 06, 2016 at 11:15 am

Well said Nick. If you can't get playmakers into your system - then it is time to change the system.

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Tundraboy's picture

December 07, 2016 at 07:57 am

"I mean what could McCarthy possibly be waiting for with 4 weeks left?"

My thoughts exactly NP. 4 games left and if he waits until the last 1 or 2 what was the point of picking him up at all. Not wanting to hurt Starks feelings?

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croatpackfan's picture

December 06, 2016 at 08:23 am

Well, when I read this type of articles I really wonder what would author do if he is wearing Mike McCarthy's shoes for real. This is very intriguing question.
I'm sure that author does not know all the facts known by Mike McCarthy or HC of any other team. We do not know how much of playbook Michael consumed completely, how familiar he become with audibles, how natural are his relation with Packers OL. Do he knows how to read OL situation and it development, whom to trust and whom not to trust. Who knows what is with his vision, do he possess good vision of the field and openings etc., etc.
But we know for sure that MIke McCarthy should start Michael from the beginning and, lets say start the game with 3 and out, than opponent score TD, then Packers would go again 3 and out (because, maybe Michael is not that good as we see him, at least at the moment), fell to 0-14 to the opponent and the same author will call HC head. Wow...
Can we really accept that we do not know 90% of the data Mike McCarthy knows about team and each and every player...
We can ask, why something is not happening and try to find right answers, but claiming what somebody else should do with knowing only 10%, if that much of what is going with the team and with the player is little bit, well, make your own conclusion...
I'm reading really good articles here, but from time to time articles like this come across the board. What to say? I believe with heavily restricted information about situation, we can just wonder why some things does not happens...

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carusotrap's picture

December 06, 2016 at 03:17 pm

James Starks has been useless for 12 weeks. Exactly what information might the HC have or need to explain that truth. Is Starks gaining yardage in practice that somehow gets credited to the game?

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

December 06, 2016 at 08:38 am

"Christine Michael deserves the ball"

Yeah, we have no idea if he has learned the play book and can keep up with what the Packers do presnap.

I hope he does now or at some point, I really do. But we don't know if he has.

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The TKstinator's picture

December 06, 2016 at 11:29 am

Agreed!

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tm_inter's picture

December 06, 2016 at 12:10 pm

Ditto

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marpag1's picture

December 06, 2016 at 02:19 pm

But let's think positively. We do know that he has 10 carries for 23 yards, so without any doubt he definitely deserves.... wait.... never mind.

Corey is the king of clickbait titles, and not much else.

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Dzehren's picture

December 07, 2016 at 10:42 pm

Exactly

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Razer's picture

December 06, 2016 at 11:13 am

I think that Nick Perry sums it up about getting talent into the lineup and more touches for the playmakers. So tired of hearing McCarthy lament about not getting a player involved only to have it happen week after week. If McCarthy can't get his talent into play calling then where's the problem. The man under utilizes his resources and cites the problem on an ongoing basis.

This team and this coaching staff must be employing the most complex and convoluted system in the NFL. All this talk of personnel groups, packages and schemes gets us further from fast, effective play. Dallas has a rookie QB and RB and they are destroying the league. We can't figure out how to use a very good second year RB/WR and a bona fide RB on a team that needs to have some backfield presence.

The problem is not that we don't have talent - its that we don't know how to use it.

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Tundraboy's picture

December 07, 2016 at 08:04 am

"This team and this coaching staff must be employing the most complex and convoluted system in the NFL. All this talk of personnel groups, packages and schemes gets us further from fast, effective play. Dallas has a rookie QB and RB and they are destroying the league. We can't figure out how to use a very good second year RB/WR and a bona fide RB on a team that needs to have some backfield presence."

Couldn't agree more. I think it's coaching scared. Afraid of losing a game if he fumbles. What's the excuse for Montgomery getting less snaps than Starks. Apparently system isn't that complicated.

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The TKstinator's picture

December 06, 2016 at 11:28 am

I know they're not road graders but I thought the whole zone blocking scheme wanted smaller, more agile linemen. So, if they're agile pass blockers, I'd figure they are also well suited to zone blocking.

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alaskan tundra's picture

December 06, 2016 at 03:28 pm

I loved Bennett as a running back...tough guy..great in bad weather...but he and MM have forgotten that many of our previous running attempts were from a spread formation...now all we do is line up in a heavy package or the I formation...completely telegraphing our intentions. Combine that with a line that has to pass block way more than they run block and you have the current running situation. I dont think it matters who the running back is if we run the same run plays over and over again. I have always liked Starks but its obvious that this season has been a regression for him. Sad to say.

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al bundy's picture

December 06, 2016 at 05:41 pm

Mental Mile is still, three yards and a cloud of dust mentality. No team in the NFL relies solely on the run and stresses the run. Not even Dallas.
Mike loves Lacy Left Lacy Right and pass if you have too. His mindset has always been, we can over power you and run the ball down your throat.
Ya, Lacy had zero TD's in his five games before his ankles gave out under the stress of being way fn over weight again.

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The TKstinator's picture

December 06, 2016 at 07:23 pm

Incoherent AND inaccurate. We are all now just a little dumber for having read your contribution. I award you no points, and may god have mercy on your soul.

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Nelson Cobb's picture

December 07, 2016 at 09:10 am

What an ignorant comment. Eddie Lacy looked fantastic this year, picking up 5.1 ypc to start his season, and if you paid any attention at all, which you clearly don't, you'd have seen Lacy's ankle injury was a result of a direct hit on his ankle, jackass.

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dobber's picture

December 07, 2016 at 09:15 am

Nelson, meet Al....

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

December 07, 2016 at 12:27 am

Michael hasn't earned carries on the field. I hope he earns those snaps and carries during practice this week.

As for Monty, I hope he is trained as a running back during training camp next season. For now, he is a gadget guy who can be very useful in limited time.

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RCPackerFan's picture

December 08, 2016 at 02:03 pm

TGR, this time I disagree with you on Montgomery.

I don't see him as a gadget guy. He isn't just used one sweeps or reverses or swing passes.

Do you want to hand him the ball 20 times up the middle? No. But it doesn't mean he is simply a specialty type of RB.

Here is a good video on him.

http://www.packers.com/media-center/videos/The-Rock-Report-Job-descripti...

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Dzehren's picture

December 07, 2016 at 10:36 pm

I hope so- who else?

1 Monty- slash/ WR Kordell Stewart type- averages 6 YPC kickoff returner
1 RIP- FB- tougher- younger- more powerful Kuhn. Short yardage- special teams ace.
3 Cobb- see Monty but less powerful more Kordell- special teams punt returner.
4 Starks- RB- can't get 2 yards- can't fall forward. Not effective in 2016- sorry starks not ur year
5. MICHAEL - tough - aggressive, iggdr back. Been on 3 teams in the last 12 months man.

Throw the damn ball. Short screens out of the back field that serve like a run play.
Throw the damn ball.

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Dzehren's picture

December 07, 2016 at 10:38 pm

MICHAEL "Bigger back" typo

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