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The Running Game

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The Running Game

Good stuff here from Railbird Central in regards to the much-maligned zone blocking scheme and it's continued residence in the Green Bay Packers' playbook. Fans have come to loathe the very mention of the scheme, but color me mystified as to why. Is it frustrating at times? Sure, especially when the same mistakes keep getting made (see: backside cutoff. I'm looking at you Clifton...) But overall, McCarthy, Philbin and Campen have done an impressive job of installing their version of the scheme and developing it as their players grow and mature. My podcast co-host's protestations not-withstanding (and Corey is more right than wrong that the offensive line is Thompson's blackest mark personnel wise since his arrival - however, in Thompson's defense, even the lines weakest link is serviceable. Look at this play where Tony Moll executes a perfect kickout block on the defensive end from his right tackle position. That's a textbook block. Now if he could just improve his pass blocking...) the offensive line, more than anything else, needs to stay healthy and start playing together for an extended period of time. The constant shuffle along the line last year really seemed to take it's toll in the running game much more so than the passing game.

My hunch is that the running game as a whole will greatly benefit from the added responsibility reportedly being given to Rodgers at the line of scrimmage. One of the things that really helped Grant and company in 2007 was Favre's ability to get the offense out of bad situations by recognizing when defenses were over-committing to defend the pass. Favre would switch to a running play and Grant would take advantage of some wide lanes and find quick cutbacks to large swaths of daylight. In 2008, for whatever reason, those patches of real estate seemed to shrink, except in one game. The Bears, for whatever reason, went into their first match up with the Packers last season as though they were deathly afraid of Jennings and/or Driver beating them deep. They constantly kept two safeties back, (As it happened, Urlacher audibled out of the one of the few fronts that didn't have two safeties deep and proceeded to pick Rodgers off...going deep to Driver) something they rarely did for any other game in 2008. It was as though Lovie Smith couldn't get the visions of how the Two Deep shell had comepletley shut down the Packers in the second half of the game at Lambeau in 2007 and refused to believe McCarthy would adjust.

Well, adjust he did.

The Bears learned their lesson and came with many more single deep safety looks in the second match up at Soldier Field. That's not something I think the Packers will see a whole lot of in 2009, at least not right away. Teams will want to play coverage and make the Packers prove that they can get the job done on the ground before they make the decison to start bringing players down into the box. The onus will be on Rodgers to take advantage of defenses ready to stop Jennings and company. 

The other main component, of course, is who will actually be carrying the ball. McCarthy has indicated that Grant is the feature back and I think we have to take him at his word. I found it interesting that McCarthy, one breath after confirming Grant as the 'primary runner' chose to use the phrase 'But I think there's a lot of competition' That's good news for fans that want to see more of Jackson, Lumpkin or Wynn. My misgivings with Grant are well documented. He's a try-hard back, but nothing special. He can  take a good angle, but he can not, for the life of him, make a safety miss and I'm sorry - he's getting paid at the make-the-safety-miss rate. He took advantage of his opportunities in 2007 and was never quite the same guy in 2008. The thinking within the organization seems to be that 2007 was the real Grant, much like they seem to think 2007 was the real Packers. But it's good to know McCarthy is, however remotely, open to the idea of some competition at the position of starting running back.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (9) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

retiredgrampa's picture

I wish I could understand why Jackson is so seldom used. His performance againest Carolina last year should have influenced MM, but sadly it didn't. I guess Jackson will have to wait for Grant to get injured again, or he will not get any reasonable snaps again. I just don't get it.

Aaron Rogders's picture

retiredgrampa, I am in the same boat. There are not enough words to express my frustration with McCarthy about using Grant as the main RB all last year. It was VERY obvious that every other back we had played much better. The only thing I could think of was that with Grant's reworked contract being based on performance, McCarthy must of been getting some commission out of it as well.

wgbeethree's picture

I'm definitely in the minority it seems but I'm completely in favor of the ZBS. I think it is clearly the most effective system. I have stated many times on other sites (and I'm sure this one as well) that I ''blame'' the lack of success on clifton and tauscher. They are/have been/will always be TERRIBLE fits for the ZBS. it is a system that totally negates their strenghs in run blocking (power and tenacity)and accentuates their weaknesses(lack of mobility). We could have been a much better running team with the likes of moll and barbre replacing them BUT we have been a ''passing'' based offense the last few years and clifton and tauscher are far superior in that area. unfortunately our two ''best'' pass protection tackles are the two ''worst'' fits for the ZBS aand the run game. its the catch 22 that we have been stuck in as we have rebuilt our lines. its not the system its our ''halfhearted'' approach to it. denver and atlanta have been running it with tons of success the last decade. carolina, washington, kansas city, oakland, and others all run it with very good success. in fact I think we were the only team to run it ''exclusively'' who didn't end up in the top 10 in the league for ypc last year. it IS the best system to run and it will be successful when we have the right players for it (and i do believe they are already on the roster giocomini,barbre, lang, and merideth all have the ability to excel in the system they just need to step up and actually do it).

Graffin's picture

"(and i do believe they are already on the roster giocomini,barbre, lang, and merideth all have the ability to excel in the system they just need to step up and actually do it)" Thats assuming a whole lot, but I hope your right.

packeraaron's picture

Graffin - tune in tomorrow night - Think you'll be interested to hear what Sigmund Bloom has to say about both Lang and Merideth.

PackersRS's picture

wgbeethree, all teams you have named have won squat. I prefer man blocking, but I can't credit all of our problems in the running game solely on system. And MM isn't going to change it, and like you said teams have had some sucess with it. Though the last team I remember that was run based and used the ZBS, and won the SB, was Denver in 97. Good thing we're pass oriented :)

buckslayernyc's picture

Brandon Jackson will get some carries, and hopefully win the 3rd down back spot.

I like Grant a lot, good kid, good resume' good runner.

I think solidifying the run and getting him and all the other backs healthy will do us wonders. I see Grant having a big year, and if he gets hurt, then I see us doing fine with the 3 other guys. I think Lumpkin is the second coming of Edgar Bennett, like him a lot. Wynn is an enigma, we will see.

Rodgers looks very happy watching his running back run 12 yards down the field.

Ron La Canne's picture

How depressing, I'm going to have to listen to MM telling the Packer faithful that pad levels are the problem and he will be fixing it. Where have I heard that before.

I wish I had the confidence in the current line everyone else seems to have. I base my conclusions on performance. None of the guys mentioned, Moll, Barbre, Spitz, College, Giacomoni, Sitton, et. al. have ever put together a consistent performance. Some haven't played at all, some have played well some games and disappeared other games, and some have not been on the field enough to get an accuarate read of their capabilites. Those with 3 to 4 years of experience should have made that step up by now, none have. Those with no real game experience have yet to prove their ability, at best we're hoping they will perform. Hence, one can only conclude TT has, at best, a grade of D where the Oline is concerned.

Without a stable, high performing Oline, the running game will never reach its' full potential regardless of who the RB is. Zone or Man they need to pick 5 guys and stick with them and let them develop. How many games last year did the Packers have the same starting front 5? Not too many.

packeraaron's picture

PackersRS - The Broncos won two, not one, two Super Bowls with the ZBS. That's a bit more than 'squat'.

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