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Packers Need To Stop Screwing Around And Give Starks The Ball

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Packers Need To Stop Screwing Around And Give Starks The Ball

I come not to bury Ryan Grant, but to praise him.

Grant is a vital cog in the Packers machine. He is a tough runner who has given the team a ton of production over the years, years that saw him on par with Adrian Peterson when you look at pure production, be it yardage, touchdowns, whatever.

But there's a better runner on the team now in the form of James Starks. You know it. I know it. Hell, the Packers have got to know it. James Starks and Ryan Grant most likely know it. Oh, they'll say the right thing, each of them. They're doing what the coaches ask of  them, etc.

But those coaches, Mike McCarthy, Joe Philbin and Jerry Fontenot, are doing their team a disservice by trotting out Grant as the de facto starter each week. There is absolutely no reason Starks should not be on the field if he's healthy enough to play. He's clearly the more dynamic runner and receiver.

And the excuse that Starks needs to work on his pass protection simply doesn't hold water anymore. He's more than held his own the last two weeks. Grant is actually much-improved in this area as well, but not in such a dynamic way as it necessitates keeping Starks off the field. Hell, even his own position coach concedes that Starks is better at protecting the quarterback at this point.

From Bob McGinn:

"I was really charting touches more than total plays," running backs coach Jerry Fontenot said. "In certain situations, I tried to manage it by personnel groups and sometimes by situation."

Fontenot said Starks got the nod over Grant in spread sets because of "his ability to run in space" and "his ability to digest what the defense is giving us and being able to pass protect."

Although Starks gave up a fourth-quarter sack, Fontenot said that it probably was fair to say that he was more dependable in protection than Grant at this point. Starks' edge in protection isn't reading defenses but actually blocking a rusher, Fontenot said.

"In normal down and distance situations, I think they're pretty equal," said Fontenot. "Whenever you get in space and have to operate out of the shotgun, then obviously James is probably more suited for that."

Starks made a bad error in the fourth quarter, missing blitzing safety Roman Harper and allowing Rodgers to be sacked.

“Other than that play, I thought he did pretty well,” said Fontenot. “But the importance that we put on keeping the quarterback upright, that one play can give you an overall negative outcome.”

Now, I am in no way shape or form saying that Grant doesn't have a valuable role to play on this team. He does. He's a tough, powerful runner who knows the system like the back of his hand, never gives up the ball and almost always gains yards after contact.

With that said, he takes way too much time to get to the line, let alone get through it. On run after run yesterday we saw Panther safeties crashing down and turning what could have been decent gains into minimal ones because of Grant's labored efforts at attacking the defense from deep I formations.

It's time for the coaches to gently but firmly put Grant on the sideline save for when Starks needs a breather. They're only cheating the offense by not doing so.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (31) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Ken's picture

Watching Ryan Grant run is like watching a great local band open up for a big act.

Sure, this is nice but let's move on before my beer gets warm.

Tarynfor 12's picture

I'm a huge Starks fan but,the problem in this game wasn't the run game and thinking that increasing the number of carries for Starks or the number of attempts period would have made it different is wrong.

packeraaron's picture

Where did I say anything about needing to "run more", which is what you're implying? I'm saying, when they do hand the ball off, or throw it to a back out of the backfield, it should be Starks. Period.

Tarynfor 12's picture

Didn't mean"run more" in that sense but,your next to last paragraph implies that Grants' labored efforts and the possible decent gains turned into minimal ones,Starks should have been the used more.
All I'm saying is the problem with the Packers run game wasn't a mentional one compared to the other problems that were/are much more mentionable.

packeraaron's picture

Ah yes. The famous "You shouldn't be writing about this/write about this" comment.

It must be football season.

Tarynfor 12's picture

I'm not telling you what to write about,just IMO there were more obvious issues that perhaps warranted a write-up.

davyjones's picture

gotta hand it to you where credit is have been on the Starks bandwagon from the very beginning and have been completely right.

Tarynfor 12's picture

Thank You.

dullgeek's picture

Am I wrong in my recollection that before the season started, Aaron, that you were poo-pooing Packers fans who called for Starks over Grant?

Could it be that the game yesterday that has finally convinced you might also have convinced the Packers coaches, too? Or were you convinced earlier than yesterday?

(If this sounds accusational, I don't mean it that way. It's meant to be a simple, non-judgemental question. To which I hope will get an answer, rather than start an argument. I often have a difficult time asking questions w/o it being interpreted as being argumentative. I hope my question can be seen as just a question. That's all I intend it as.)

packeraaron's picture

I don't remember "poo-pooing" the idea of starting Starks. I do remember saying that the Packers would start Grant - which they have. And yes, I wanted to see a couple games before declaring what a few preseason carries seemed to suggest, that Starks is just on another level.

dullgeek's picture

Thanks. I guess I get so accusomted to you poo-pooing packer fans, that I can't remember which topics you've covered! :)

I guess we'll see if the coaching staff has come to the same conclusion next week.

Mike's picture

Drink your beer faster then. I agree and have been saying this all along. I cant beleive that others still ride the "Grant should be the starter" train. I wonder if they even watch the games?? Its clear Starks has better vision, balance and even power..... There is no argument.

CSS's picture

Aaron (anybody): How many snaps did each back get this past game?

Chris's picture

According to Rotoworld:
James Starks unofficially played 37 snaps while Ryan Grant saw just 16 in Sunday's win over the Panthers.

CSS's picture

Then Grant was first snap starter without starting snaps? Does that really make him the starter then?

Also, curious how often (out of 37 snaps)the offense audibles away from Starks as opposed to the coaches limiting his touches?

packeraaron's picture

Yes, for example, Nelson's touchdown was a called run. Rodgers changed it at the line. But Rodgers changing the play has little to do with who the coaches send out on the field.

As for Grant, its just wasted carries. Ok, maybe not "wasted" but they are diminishing the offensive potential before the ball is even snapped whenever Grant is out there in a non-specialized way (ie short yardage). That makes no sense to me.

CSS's picture

I was aware of that one, but it's too bad there's no way to know how frequently each back gets reduced touches as a byproduct of what Rodgers sees at the line of scrimmage.

I'm the last person to dispute Starks doesn't deserve the majority of the touches. I want Green to be in the future mix as well.

Most importantly from my perspective I simply want December, January (and hopefully February) Starks to look and run like September Starks.

BrianD's picture

I'd like to see a comparison on the number of snaps for each back in Week 1 and Week to. To me, it seemed like Starks got a greater percentage of the snaps with a running back on the field than he did in Week 1, which is a good sign for the offense.

BrianD's picture

*Week 2

Apparently I don't have permission to edit my comment. Great website you've got here! :P

bomdad's picture

As long as they are both good enough to get the safeties to sneak up, I dont care who touches it. I think Grant will have better performances later in the season, and its still important to give him the runs now. I cant tell if he's lost a step, but he had home run capability up until last year before his injury. His long runs tend to be longer than other backs.

PackersRS's picture

Perfect, Nagler.

The only thing I would add is that I do believe Grant is a better short-yardage back than Starks, and the whole stamina/mudder thing.

But for the short-yardage, Kuhn is even better.

Norman's picture

What, Grant is a better short-yardage back than Starks because he turns long gains into short ones?!? I disagree that Grant is better in short-yardage. Is he a mudder? Well, his father was a mudder, and his mother was a mudder...

Starks nearly always falls forward after contact, even when apparently knocked unconscious as looked to be the case on one carry yesterday (okay, slight exaggeration, but he was popped pretty good and looked dazed).

I like Grant, and think it's great we have two backs that have Pro Bowl capability and you need that over a long season, but I'll take Starks for most of the carries.

Chris's picture

Where can I sign this post? :-)

Bleed green and gold guy's picture

I am impressed with starks simply because he also hangs on to the ball ,, last year I was scared that he being a rookie that could have been a problem against some great defensive teams in the playoffs ,, he's young has a great attitude runs hard and protects the ball ,, it's the NFL. , the best players should be playing , just my two cents

CSS's picture

Something I haven't seen uttered in quite some time (Pro Football Focus):

"This has developed for New Orleans into one of their better run blocking lines in the league and with the Packers’ line and a good pair of backs a similar curve could be taken by Green Bay. For the second week running the triumvirate of Scott Wells (+2.8), Josh Sitton (+1.9) and Bryan Bulaga (+2.4) were strong again run blocking."

"The Packers running backs looked sharp but perhaps the mark of the Green Bay offensive line is that they gave their backs an average of 4.3 yards per carry before they were touched."

PackersRS's picture

Remember those people (me) saying we might miss Collegde? HA!

Right now the best interior OL in football.

CSS's picture

Wouldn't just limit it to the interior. They are among the best (well rounded), left to right from Wells over. Lang's development could make that left to right from LG over.

I'm really anxious to see how Lang does in the Lions game. Suh is still overly aggressive getting up field and he can be trapped and neutralized. Want to see if the Packers get after him in the same fashion and how Lang responds.

PackersRS's picture

The tackles, the problem is Clifton is not very good in the running game (WTF did we run to the left on that 3rd and 1 is beyond me), and Bulaga, albeit a lot better, is still not great at pass pro.

The interior, save for some Lang's penalties, has been excellent all around.

And the best player on the OL so far? Scott Wells. In the running game. Who would've thought...

And regarding Suh, the games I've seen from the Lions, he lines up either right in front Sitton but usually on the 1, between Wells and Sitton. So he wouldn't be against Lang. That would be the also very competent Corey Williams

CSS's picture

I've been hesitant to blame Rodgers for his own pressures in the past, but he's definitely played a major role in his own pressure this year. I can only put a small portion of that on Bulaga.

You're missing my point about Suh. He's too aggressive and can be trapped. A trap will involve the left guard pulling to trap the tackle occupying Suh's position. He's susceptible.

Nerdmann's picture

I'd like to see them run more screens. Speaking of which, how is Green's achilles? And how long will it take him to supplant Grant as the #2?

jim's picture

grant wss a welcome addition when he came to the pack, showing us more each year until his injury. stark reminds me of that same situation as he grows more while he plays more. i like grant's past and what appears to be starks future. i remember when neither were available and a ground game was nearly non-existant. to have both now is awesome. less carries yields less fatigue, less injury from fatigue. and, considering the packers past year, any antidote to injuries is great.

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