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The Running Back Situation

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The Running Back Situation

I know there are many, many fans out there who have strongly held beliefs about the players residing in the Packers' offensive backfield, and about who among them should be on the roster and where they should be positioned on the depth chart. Needless to say, this is all well and good, but I'm here to tell them, and you, that Ryan Grant is the starter, come hell or high water. The only way Kregg Lumpkin is the starting halfback on opening night against the Bears is if there is an amazing run of injuries to all the backs in front of him on the depth chart during preseason. (And even then, I wouldn't put it past Thompson and McCarthy to trade for some kid we've never heard of the week before the game and throw him out there...)

The point is - Grant's job is secure. That said, there is one player who can possibly make a case for taking carries away from him on a regular basis, and it's Brandon Jackson. Not Wynn, not Lumpkin. Jackson. One need look no further than last year's game against Carolina to see how much Jackson has improved from his rookie year. His biggest deficiency is his lack of power, especially inside the 10 yard line. Yes, he can hit a backside crease and get the ball down to the one or two yard line. But once it's goalline time, he just does not have the juice necessary to punch it in. Grant, on the other hand, has more than enough power to get the job done down there, and has shown that on numerous occasions.

Of course, another big problem out of the backfield is  the lack of a bona fide pass catching back. Jackson has the reputation there, but really, his hands are mediocre at best. He's not a natural pass catcher. Grant is no better, and much worse at setting up his blocks when he does catch the ball. People are right to decry the death of the screen game in Green Bay and one has to wonder where the disconnect is. McCarthy seems to have them well designed. But none of the backs seem to show the requisite patience with the ball in their hands. Both Grant and Jackson turn and sprint once they catch the ball, never allowing the blocking to materialize downfield. A common site on a Packers' screen these days is a back caught from the side or behind by guys who should have been blocked by the lineman standing a yard or two behind the play. The kid from Northwestern, Sutton, could help in this regard. He has soft hands and seems to be a natural catching the ball out of the backfield. But it's hard to see how they keep him ahead of Wynn. Maybe Lumpkin.

Overall, the running backs on offer are more than adequate. They are serviceable.  None of them are special. It will be great to watch how the backfield situation plays out over the course of training camp and preseason, but all the armchair coaches and GMs who think that there will be some amazing ascension from deep down the depth chart are in for a long wait....

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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.

Super Rodgers's picture

I think it's all about health. If Grant, Jackson and one of the other guys can stay healthy, we will be ok. Like you said none of them are special, but I think they are a solid bunch.

PackOne's picture

Lumpking wasn't even taking third team reps yesterday.


I don't see any moves being made. If they actually GIVE the ball to Jackson more than 45 times a year, they might find some success.

bomdad's picture

On a positive note about the screen pass, this will be Grant's first training camp and Edgar Bennett is the position coach. You think that might be an area of improvement? Edgar made his career out of screen plays.

packeraaron's picture

Funnily enough, I had a bit about Bennett in the post above that I took out. You would think, with all the success Bennett had in the screen game, that he would be able to correct the timing issues with his backs. But as of yet there has been very little improvement. The one bright spot was the red zone screen (a call I've always hated) in the MNF game against the Bears where Grant timed things perfectly. Maybe it's a sign of things improving...

gratif's picture

There's statistical evidence that suggests running back by committee is more effective.

The gap between Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson is not large enough to justify the latter never getting the rock.

Super Rodgers's picture

I think Quinn Johnson will help improve the short yardage area. Which has been pretty mediocre the past few years.

gratif's picture

And when it comes to the running game, I think we should talk a bit about predictability.

I-Form=run up the middle
Shortgun=pass, probably a checkdown.

We absolutely need to pass more out of the I.

WoodyG's picture

As much as I would like to see either Grant or Jackson catch more coming out of the backfield, the strength of GBs offense is still the WR corp. Everytime a pass is directed at a RB that's one less pass for Jennings, Driver, Jones, Nelson & hopefully Finley.
None of the present RBs are going to ever resemble D. Levens or A. Green catching passes. At the same time, I contend GB had to use Levens & especially Green more because their WR corps were not nearly the level of the present group. They weren't bad just not 5-deep like today.

Ron La Canne's picture

The key to RB success this year is simple. The Oline must play well. I don't want to hear MM say, "We've got to fis those pad levels", after every game.

The 4 RB's on the roster now are not game breaker RB's yet. Maybe one or more will step up. But, not until the Oline starts to perform at a consistently high level. I* personally worry about that.

bomdad's picture

Ron, I take exception to withholding the game breaker tag, Grant has busted long TD runs in big games, and had a great playoff game. Wynn has popped some long runs like the Lions this year and (i think) Giants the year before. Its been the number of negative and short gains in between.

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