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Packers Coaches Still Focusing on Getting Michael Involved

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Packers Coaches Still Focusing on Getting Michael Involved

In games where the snow is falling, the sideline heaters are at full blast and traction on the field is spotty, most teams over time have turned to the ground game as an efficient means of moving the ball.

Not the 2016 Green Bay Packers.

The Packers' rushing game has been flirting with stagnancy for over a year now. Starting tailback Eddie Lacy fending off reoccurring injuries (and the highly-publicized diet transition) doesn't help. The week three win against the Lions was the last time the Packers had a rusher go over 100 yards, and before that, week 14 against the visiting Cowboys - last season. 

Since that game against the Lions in present year, the Packers have averaged 98.6 rushing yards per game. 98.6? At first glance at a box score, you'd think the Packers would be one of the top rushing teams in the league. However, that's not the case.

That's because Aaron Rodgers has accounted for 35.4% of the Packers' rushing yardage since that game.

The ground game has come in spurts for the Packers, whether it be the short-tenured Knile Davis or Don Jackson being promoted from the practice squad. Nothing has helped appease those who are fans of old-school ground-and-pound football. Nevertheless, those same fans are still waiting to see a full-fledged audition from the newest running back to join the Green Bay backfield carousel.

Christine Michael has seen all but 10 carries in his first two games with his newest team, while head coach Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff still try to work him into multiple packages in an effort to get him on the field.

"We wanted to take a step with (Michael), " said McCarthy during his Monday presser. "He had some really tough looks there in the four-minute offense and I think his numbers reflect that."

Michael's numbers included nine touches for just 19 yards, averaging 2.1 yards per carry. It was the most work he had seen since week eight when he was a Seattle Seahawk, his former team and also the Packers' upcoming opponent.

"If we can get him some more open space-type runs, or where he isn't always running into an eight or a nine-man front. It's all part of the evaluation and the correction process." 

Despite the success found with wide receiver Ty Montgomery being utilized out of the backfield in the running game, Michael became the third running back the Packers hit the market for this season after claiming Jhurell Pressley off of waivers from the Vikings and making a trade with the Chiefs for Davis. A subtle testament to the struggles they've faced at the position. 

Michael was the team's leading ball-carrier on Sunday against the Texans, but nine carries are the floor with how much offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett wants to get him involved.

"Take it week-by-week," said Bennett. "Certainly from a preparation standpoint, he goes about it the right way. Each week, we'll have different packages and that obviously plays into it as well."

Michael has been praised about as much for his preparation as he has for his speed, and that's the missing piece to the Packers' offensive puzzle that they're waiting to see. Much like McCarthy made clear, the ideal way to incorporate Michael would be to allow him to bounce his runs to the outside into open space. While Starks repeatedly feeds his addiction of doing so (and makes fans want to pull their hair out), getting younger, more capable feet in that position would reap benefits for the Packers.

"He has quick feet, good balance, breaks tackles, he accelerates his feet on contact." Bennett echoed, almost as if he were watching 20-year old film of his glory days as Green Bay's leading rusher. "All of those fundamentals add up into breaking tackles and what you gain on your own, and he brings that to the table." 

For as anaemic as the running game has been for the Packers this season, they're averaging 4.7 yards per carry when running outside of the tackles. With David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga quickly becoming one of the top tackle duos in the league, it's no secret as to why that's been the strong point.

The Packers are coming off their most balanced offensive game in terms of plays called since that aforementioned win against Detroit. Their 26 runs were their most when not eclipsing 60 total plays in a game since - you guessed it, week 3.


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (10) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Handsback's picture

I'm never sure when I read articles based on coaches speak that they want to get this player or another more involved in the offense how serious those statements really are!
I wonder if they say that hoping the other team pays attention to it and serves up another wrinkle. Miss direction is a powerful tool.

sonomaca's picture

Off Topic: what the heck happened to the Packers easy schedule. They've played 12 games, and only two have been against teams with losing records: the Jags and the Bears. It's conceivable that, by season's end, only 3 of 16 games will have been against teams with losing records.

RCPackerFan's picture

funny how that works isn't it.

I haven't looked at other teams schedules, but the Packers have had a difficult schedule just with the way it was laid out. They started the season with 2 road games (this was after 2 road preseason games). They had the week 4 bye. Then they had a stretch of 3 road games in a row.
Not an easy schedule with the way it was laid out.

4zone's picture

Well, I kinda figured he should get at least 8 carries this week to increase his workload the more he learns of the playbook. Next week, I expect there will be less Starks, and more of a balance between Michaels and Montgomery.

The Hawks D is going to make this a tough game to call. With their #1 S out, maybe Cook gets a steady feed. If Michaels can be effective, maybe upwards of 13-15 carries this week, if not...6-9 again...???

dobber's picture

Frankly, I don't think the Packers will be effective running the ball out of their traditional sets. They -- and MMs tendencies -- telegraph run, and as you state this OL has not shown any ability to consistently create running lanes. Lacy could be his own blocker. None of these other guys on the roster are that kind of runner. They'll get most of their run yards by spreading the field from here on...even if/when Lang comes back.

Razer's picture

... There are no holes.
This OL can not run block...

Simple, priceless and sadly true.

Lphill's picture

Interesting that Michael gets to go against the team that gave up on him.

RCPackerFan's picture

Think he will be fired up for this game?

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Time for Ripkowski and Michael in the backfield. Rip is a good receiver, so some play-action with short throws to him should create indecision, keeping defenses from loading against the run.

Time to pound and confuse defenses.

al bundy's picture

Michael was dropped because he woudnt block and almost got his qb killed. Hey whe. The coach of Seattle dumps youthere is a dam good reason. So get off the wow are we lucky train. Erhaps another loser whocant learn the playbook?

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