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Point of Veau: Johnathan Franklin Bounces Back After a Disappointing Preseason

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Point of Veau: Johnathan Franklin Bounces Back After a Disappointing Preseason

There was a point late in training camp when it appeared Johnathan Franklin could be on the Green Bay Packers' roster bubble.

When the rookie was selected by the Packers as a highly-touted running back out of UCLA, expectations were that he and Eddie Lacy could rejuvenate a Green Bay ground game stuck in neutral for the past several seasons.

But a less-than-impressive preseason showing tempered those expectations rather quickly, if not for Lacy, then at least for Franklin.

Most glaring was an inability to pick-up the blitz, displaying both a lack of knowledge where the pressure was coming from and getting overpowered by bigger defenders even when he was in the correct spot.

Compounding matters was that Franklin didn't show the speed and elusiveness with the ball in his hands that he had in college.

Despite receiving a team-high 21 carries during the exhibition season, Franklin gained only 47 yards on the ground, an average of 2.2 yards per carry. And his four receptions covered only 23 yards. He didn't find the end zone at all.

Even Franklin's lone attempt at a kickoff return was brought back merely 14 yards. All around, pedestrian might be the best way to characterize Franklin's preseason play.

When it came time to trim the roster down to 53 players, some through maybe the Packers would part ways with fourth round draft choice in favor of a player like Alex Green, who put together a better summer camp.

But you also have to consider, not once did Franklin get an opportunity to play with the first-team offense during the preseason. He didn't get a chance to run behind the likes of Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang, nor did he have arguably the game's best quarterback forcing the defense to respect his arm.

Nope, instead, Franklin was running behind offensive linemen named Andrew Datko and Kevin Hughes and taking handoffs from players like Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman.

It's no wonder that Franklin was able to find running room on Sunday when he made his NFL regular-season debut on the offensive side of the football.

With Eddie Lacy and John Kuhn inactive because of injuries, the Packers were down to just two true running backs coming into the Week 3 game at Cincinnati.

And when James Starks went down with a knee injury late in the first half, Franklin was welcomed to primetime, ready or not. Perhaps not surprisingly, the rookie running back responded when given the chance to play with the starters.

"We've got some great offensive linemen," said Franklin after the game. "I've just got to praise God and give those guys up front credit."

Franklin finished the day with 103 yards on 13 carries, an average of 7.9 yards per rush, all of them coming in the second half. He also had three receptions for 23 yards to boot.

After going 44 games without a 100-yard rusher, it was the second consecutive contest the Packers had a player exceed the century mark, following Starks' 132-yard output against Washington a week earlier.

Indeed, the Packers ground game is clicking through three games this season.

On Sunday, the team rushed for 182 yards, an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Through Week 3, the Packers have gained 384 yards on the ground, 5.3 yards per carry, leaps and bounds better than they had been the past several years.

The depth at the running back position is also looking much improved. Following a week off for the bye, it stands to reason Lacy, Kuhn, Starks and Franklin (who suffered an ankle injury late in the game) will all be healed and ready to form a dangerous backfield rotation.

Whether Franklin will form a 1-2 punch with Lacy or he'll be used as a change of pace remains to be seen.

Unfortunately, Sunday's performance was marred by a fumble on a fourth-and-1 play call that was returned for the go-ahead touchdown by the Bengals that overshadowed what was an otherwise terrific showing from Franklin.

"We're always learning, every day. You always got to grow. If you ain't moving forward, you're moving backwards," said Franklin. "I just have to understand why certain things happen and grow from it and take a step. We've got a long season, and hopefully I'm blessed with another opportunity, but I've got to continue to work."

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (38) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Derek in CO's picture

Franklin to me looked like our version of Reggie Bush/Geovani Bernard. the small, fast, shifty back who would be great on screens or draws. He ran it really well. Never should've gotten the ball on 4th and 1, QB sneak all the way.

Stroh's picture

Yes lets submit our Franchise QB to another needless hit on 4th and 1. Lets have him push forward w/ his head on his shoulders into DL and LB trying to hit him on a play where the only real contact point is the head. Seems like a concussion waiting to happen doesn't it? Answer me this why do you think Brady and Manning are never asked to do a QB sneak. Mobility on that play means nothing. You don't purposely subject your Franchise QB to a hit that is so easily a concussion.

Derek in CO's picture

Brady runs plenty of sneaks.
They work most of the time, we only needed 6". One less handoff = one less chance for fumbled exchange/less time for DLine to penetrate. Fact is, our Oline is not physical enough to convert short yardage. Sneaks have better chance of conversion than handoff to our RBs. QBs don't get concussed on sneaks, they are too slow moving and over too fast

Evan's picture

I agree - when you need 6 inches, I don't mind the QB sneak. I'd rather have the QB plunge forward from the snap than drop back and hand the ball off 2-3 yards deep.

That said, a quick pitch to Franklin could have worked or even a bootleg.

As I've said, good call, bad play.

Barutan Seijin's picture

That one was a bit more than 6", more like half a yard. Makes the QB plunge a little harder.

Turt's picture

You must be watching the CFL Tom Brady sneaks the ball about once a game it seems.

Tibbits's picture

He sure is. Also, QB sneaks are really low impact plays. I don't think I've ever heard of someone getting injured on a QB sneak.

Evan's picture

I actually looked it up - Alex Smith got his concussion last year on a sneak. And Schaub was lost for the season in week 10 of 2011 with a Lisfranc injury he got on a sneak. Those are the two recent big ones I found.

Injuries happen...but I wouldn't say they're any more likely to happen on a sneak than any other play.

Longshanks's picture

I have to apologize to Franklin. I was one of those who thought this guy was a wasted pick after what I saw in the preseason. Had no faith in him like others here did.

Now I see why so many are/were excited about this guy. Holy crap, this guy is quick and hard to tackle. Yeah, he had a fumble but the future is bright with Lacy and Franklin. Those two will be the best 1/2 combos in the league next season.

If Sherrod and Bulaga get back and throw in a now experience Bak and Barc, we'll be hard to beat offensively.

The only problem I see is Rodgers being able to take a backseat to a running game. Can he or will he be able to handle less personal numbers on his stat sheet in the coming years?

Stroh's picture

I didn't have an issue w/ picking Franklin and he might become a very good compliment to Lacy, but that fumble was absolutely inexcusable and I hate that everyone would rather blame playcalling than hold the RB accountable for holding onto the damn football! He barely had any contact to cause it either. Nothing wrong w/ expecting a RB that had 100 yds in 1/2 of a game to be able to pick up 1/2 yd.

Rodgers is the least of my worries. I don't think he gives a rip about personal accolades.

Longshanks's picture

I understand your anger towards that fumble by Franklin. It was the one that ultimately cost us the game no doubt.

The thing is, I am not that mad at Franklin and I don't sense too many others are either. Why? I think it's the fact because we are all willing to forgive him because of what he gave us all prior to that fumble and that was pure excitement at the running back position.

The guy was a spark plug for the offense. Surprised the hell out of me to be honest. I can see the future starting against the Lions and I am excited. He gets a pass from me on this. He just does. He's not in Joe Pisarcik territory yet. lol

Had he gone in and rushed for 15 yards and 13 carries I'd be just as angry as you are and would want him cut. For some reason I am ok with Franklin fumbling. More upset at Ross and Rodgers for some reason.

As for Rodgers and his stats, trust me Stroh, he cares about his stats. He's a numbers man. Not that there's anything wrong with that but I believe Rodgers will have a hard time accepting throwing for 230 yards and averaging 1.5 td's a game if this running game takes off and it will take off no doubt with Lacy and Franklin.

Evan's picture

Trust you? What are you basing that on?

Rodgers cares about winning above any personal stats.

Longshanks's picture

I'm Longshanks damn it!!

Evan's picture


Longshanks's picture

Actually one way to tell Rodgers loves stats is by how many Hail Marys he never attempts or somehow manages to get sacked with a 3 man rush even.

I love Rodgers to death but there's times where I feel he actually avoids the Hail Mary because he knows the odds of someone getting a gimme int off of him increase dramatically. He hates that because the int's look bad on his record. He cares about those personal numbers and that's not a slam it's just reality. I am glad he does. He wants to be the best. Favre cared about the all time int record which he achieved. Rodgers want no part of that record. Good for him I say.

aNEWpackersJERSEY's picture

Rodgers has mentioned a few times before on his radio show that he pays attention to his qb rating and longshanks is right - Aaron would take a sack 10 times out of 10 instead of throwing a "50/50" ball. Then again, I think that's what sets him apart, along with the accuracy, pocket presence, quick release, etc...

Stroh's picture

Taking a sack is quite a bit different than not wanting to throw to protect his QB rating. Taking a sack helps win games as opposed to turnovers which cause you to lose games. He still cares more about winning than anything and if not putting the ball up for grabs counts as padding his stats, that more than fine by me! Sacks end drives, turnovers end games... Makes a lot of sense to me!

RC Packer Fan's picture

I agree with most of this...

I am more frustrated with Ross's fumble because that is the 3rd time in the last 10 games that he has fumbled the ball away... That is a pattern and in this game really hurt them early. If he doesn't fumble Bengals are up 7-0 vs. 14-0 before their first snap on offense.

I agree that Franklin's skill's and production really change the way I feel about his fumble. To me he didn't cost them the game. Yes Cinci scored a TD on his fumble. But they still had a chance after that to win. Rodgers couldn't get them in the end zone when needed...
To me this loss is on Rodgers and offense in general. The defense gave them the ball 3 times on the Bengals side of the 50. and all they managed was 3 field goals.

Evan's picture

That TD after the fumble was probably the best thing that could have come from that situation. Gave us plenty of time to win at the end...goddamn cut block.

Ct Sharpe Cheddar's picture

He just has to realize he now has a running game.Others will carry some of this load not just him and the passing game.Maybe less points more balance.Less time and stress on the defence. GPG

whaler92's picture

Maybe Rodgers is just that good and safe with the ball he wont just throw it up, he waits and takes gambles, what has got me is just how much of an over-reaction we've had to this result, yes we should haver won yes we beat ourselves but despite the appalling offensive performance the D stepped up and we seem to have found a running attack (providing we have a healthy RB) This game reminds me of the tough losses we suffered early in the season during the SB run, we'll learn form our mistakes and come back stronger.

I think this side is far better than last years and we will see that come January

Jake - State Farm's picture

I agree. With one exception. Hell of a game to put someone in who has been sitting on the bench. I kept waiting for him to fumble.

Macarthy thinks he is so smart leaving one guy in who is doing well. Ya and the other guys have to come in cold when that one guy gets hurt.

AKA Benson, and other along the way. Is this guy ever going to learn?

C's picture

Encouraging start. Bad things tend to happend when players with the ball leave their feet. I was impressed with his vision, more importantly his patience.

No where else to put this, but after sitting on it overnight I'm backing down a bit on criticizing Rodgers performance yesterday. Bad enough the game-plan install for the Bengals was trashed with the absence of Finley, but the playbook itself was radically reduced by losing Starks and depending on Franklin. Tough position for Rodgers down the stretch when he has to shift protection for a rookie tailback with no pre-season 1st team reps and a rookie offenseive tackle to boot. Totally subjective, but from a play and protection standpoint Rodgers was on that final drive with a minutia of the playbook at his disposale. No excuse, just an observation.

jeremy's picture

It was nice to see the vision, and the natural instincts to make guys miss. Green didn't have those abilities.

TGJP's picture

I agree with the call somewhat, i like when a coach takes chances to put the game away. The kid franklin played well, but that fumble changed the game, it was the third straight turnover.... it made me wonder who's the contender and who's the pretender..

TGIE's picture

Why not roll Rodgers out on 4th and inches and on the last play? Granted he was not having his best day, but he's great passing outside of the pocket and could have possibly run for it. At least it opens things up and gives him options. Going up the middle was just stupid against their D line.

Stroh's picture

I would have been ok w/ Rodgers doing a bootleg. That way if he sees he isn't going to get it he can throw it away w/o taking a hit. But I also don't have a problem w/ the run for Franklin.

Evan's picture

Bye-bye, Ross.

Not surprised in the slightest. What did surprise me was how after the fumble, he still saw a lot of snaps, as a returner and as a WR. I saw him more than Boykin, actually.

I wonder if with the needs at RB and returner, McKnight might get a call. Though I can't really see them going with just 4 WRs...

Jake - State Farm's picture

Wow just think if Maccart has let him play the week before and let his hot hand Starks take a breather, the coaches may have noticed how he carries the ball in traffic and corrected it.

All I ever here is we like to develop players but you don't let them play so how do you know what to develop.

PS When is Datone going to be on the field and making those number one pick plays??? I looked for him and he was not on the field much. Must still be in that training mode.

Evan's picture

You missed the blocked field goal and the sack/fumble?

Stroh's picture

NFL has DatOne w/ no stats to mention. No tackles, no sacks and no forced fumbles.

4 sacks by Jennings, Tramon, Matthews and Daniels

3 FF by Matthews (2) and Brad Jones.

Stroh's picture

He did have the blocked Xtra pt tho...

Ma Linger's picture

He Mac, how about letting Jolly or Raji have the ball on 4th and 1. Why a little running back who weighs 155 wet. Oj, it takes innovation to come up with those ideas.

Stroh's picture

How about NOT! I am not wanting to put the ball in the hand of a player that never handles it in such a crucial situation!

mudduckcheesehead's picture

Jesus, Stroh... you're a class-A douchebag, but at least you're a real Packer fan... Don't feed this troll.

Stroh's picture

Sorry if you don't like the truth or that I'm right.

Derek in CO's picture

Jeremy Ross just got cut

James's picture

We've got completely off track from the subject heading. It's about Franklin. He has potential. A lot. And please, nothing from a commentater named Evan. I don't respect his opinion. He might give it, but it will be a social statement we can all laugh about. The Franklin/Lacy punch can be really tough. Back that up with Starks. Nice. Get everyone on board and let's go forward!

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