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Two Halfbacks Becoming Increasingly Possible

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Two Halfbacks Becoming Increasingly Possible

GREEN BAY – The reliability of John Kuhn as an emergency halfback and stopgap player in case of injury is making it increasingly likely that the Green Bay Packers will keep only two true halfbacks on their 53-man roster, at least to begin the season.

Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson are locks to make the team coming out of training camp. Beyond them, the rest of the stable of running backs have been unreliable and unavailable.

"We would rather not have the injuries, but again, it’s like another couple of positions where it is just the way it has worked out," said general manager Ted Thompson today.

The Packers have been without the services of Kregg Lumpkin since last week Monday after he suffered a pulled hamstring in the preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns. He sat out the second preseason game against Seattle Seahawks and has continued to be sidelined.

Undrafted rookie Quinn Porter hurt his ankle in the Seattle game and has not practiced this week. Head coach Mike McCarthy, however, classified him as day-to-day meaning he has a chance to play this Thursday against the Indianapolis Colts.

More troubling than any lingering ankle issue for Porter, though, may be the immaturity he displayed in the Cleveland game when he mimicked some sort of spoon-feeding motion with his hands after carrying the football. He also appears to have fallen out of favor as a punt and kick return specialist.

Perhaps the biggest frustration has been the health of sixth-round draft choice James Starks who has been on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list since the beginning of training camp.

"It’s been a disappointment that James hasn’t been able to go the whole time," said Thompson. "We were certainly counting on him to be able to take some of those reps, but that is just the way it has worked out."

According to head coach Mike McCarthy, Starks had been making progress until a recent setback.

"He was improving at the beginning of the week," said McCarthy. "Yesterday was not one of his better days in the rehab, so we’re still up and down there. He will not play this week."

But with none of the other halfbacks apart from Grant and Jackson striking an overwhelming claim to a roster spot, Starks could still be a factor down the road as long as Kuhn can fulfill the No. 3 halfback role in the meantime.

If Starks begins the regular season on the PUP list, he must sit out first six weeks of the season. At that time, the Packers must make a decision whether to activate him to the 53-man roster or place him on season-ending injured reserve.

The Packers have been considered a primarily a passing team under McCarthy and dating back to the beginning of the Brett Favre era, so depth at running back would conceivably be lesser priority than receiving options, for example.

And ever since Grant assumed the starting role, he's been extremely durable. Seeing as Grant has carried the ball over 280 times each of the past two seasons, the Packers have shown a hesitancy to let anyone else be a primary ball carrier.

Should Green Bay decide to go with only two halfbacks, it wouldn't necessarily spell the end for a player like Porter. They'd almost assuredly like to have an insurance policy on the practice squad in case of an injury.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (41) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

TPacker's picture

Good writing Brian. Keep it up!

Ruppert's picture

I wish we had 3 decent RBs, what with the beating that RBs take in the NFL.

nypacker's picture

I don't think that spoon feeding celebration is enough to declare Porter "immature" ;)

With that said, it's likely that he can crack the 53 man lineup with Starks being injured and Lumpkin always unavailable. The coaches may have fallen out of favor with him as a returner b/c they want to give other guys a chance to get some reps, most notably Shields and Blackmon. I think they're settled knowing thay Porter can be a returner but only in emergency situations. Other than that he certainly looks worthy of placing on the practice squad.

packsmack25's picture

I'm calling it: 2 QBs, 2 HBs, 2FB, 4WR, 4TE

Nate's picture

That would be 2 less players than they usually carry at those positions

I think it might end up being 2 QB, 2HB, 2FB, 5WR, 5TE

Nate's picture

Actually 1 less, but 9 OL seems like the number this year

packsmack25's picture

I doubt they keep Lee, Havner, AND Crabtree. One of those 3 is the odd man out. 5 TEs is pointless. Then again, so was 3 FBs. The only reason I'm saying they keep 2 HBs and 4WRs is because Kuhn can fill in at HB and Finley or Quarless could be the 5th wideout if it were ever necessary.

Nate's picture

I'm not saying that I agree with keeping 5 TE's, but like you said, it wouldn't be the first time. I just think that if they end up only keeping 4 of the TE's, they will almost definitely keep either a 5th WR or a 3rd RB. There wouldn't be a reason to save another roster spot for another position somewhere else.

The reason I think 5 TE's is possible is because Porter might not be back from his injury by Thursday, which would probably mean the end of his spot on the 53 man roster. Starks will definitely be on PUP, and Lumpkin can't stay on the field long enough to make the team. The wild card is the number of OL they keep. If they keep 9, 5 TE's could happen. Then again, Ted could keep 3 FB's again this year.

In conclusion, I have absolutely no idea. All these variables are making my head spin.

Graffin's picture

"In conclusion, I have absolutely no idea". LOL. Good stuff. Even though they can flex Finley to WR I bet they keep 5 actual WRs.

nerdmann's picture

If they're primarily a passing team, then they need people who can catch the ball. Without tipping it up in the air first. Enter, Porter and Starks.
Starks could be lightening in a bottle if he ever sees the field.

lebowski's picture

Next year's first round draft pick.... a running back. We have lacked an explosive guy for what seems like forever. How good would a CJ Spiller type look in this offense? We'd score 40 every game.

Nononsense's picture

Regular season PUP list is only available to guys who didn't practice at all in training camp. Once you practice your no longer eligible for PUP.

I may be wrong here(but im often not): When a player is on the PUP list to start the season he can not practice or play for the the first 6 games. (ok we knew that)

After that he may begin to practice, the team then has up to 3 weeks to evaluate the player and make a decision whether to activate him to the 53 or put him on injured reserve.

Both Al Harris and James Starks are eligible for PUP and I fully expect both to start the season there.

The meat of the schedule comes after week 6 anyway, Vikes, Jets, Boys, Bye, Vikes, Falcons, 49ers.

globalpack's picture

Thanks for the rules update. Let me ask you this, you said the PUP list is for someone who doesn't practice at all during training camp. Can someone start practicing in training camp, but then get injured, never practice in training camp and then be placed on the PUP list?

Nate's picture

Once you practice in training camp, you aren't eligible for PUP. The only PUP eligible players the Packers have are Harris, Bigby, and Starks because they were placed on Active PUP before the start of training camp.

Shootz's picture

If Al Harris is unable to play Week 1 but is looking even close to a return, you've got to think that the Packers keep him off PUP. If there was even a chance he'd be ready in week 5, he's worth the roster spot. If Lee and Underwood continue to look as flummoxed in pass coverage as they did this past weekend, returning Al Harris to the field would quickly become a top priority.

BrianD's picture

Don't count out Thompson picking up a player off another team's practice squad right after final cuts. There's plenty of talent out there to select from. He struck gold once already with Grant, and another wavier-wire type pickup is not out of the question. Perhaps we could also go the route of acquiring a running back by trading one of our TEs or FBs.

michaelcainlaw's picture

Good stuff. Treating backs more as a commodity may allow for a guy like Zombo to make this team.

I've seen a lot of that eating soup celebration this preseason. QP definitely #trending league wide.

Chris's picture

Kuhn is no RB to count on. He might look ok against the Seattle 3rd stringers, but against the first unit it's totally different. And going into a season with 2 RBs sounds ike a possible disaster. Heck, grant already had a consussion in the first game. Let that happen again and he might be out 2-3 games.
Porter didnt look too bad in preseason. He was fast, made some nice cuts, and fought for extra yards when it mattered. A tweaked ankle can happen, that's not a sign that he is "injury prone". I say give the guy a chance and keep him if he is healthy. Otherwise scout the players released from other teams.

Brooklyn81's picture

honsetly the 5 tight ends are better than any of the players trying to make the fifth wide out spot

packeraaron's picture

Totally agree.

PackersThad's picture

Co-signed. If we keep all 5 TE's, we can consider Quarless as the 5th WR and he will be on special teams and we can let Crabtree do all the blocking on running plays.

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of 5 TE's (if we can't get something good for Donald Lee) and 4 WR's!

PackersRS's picture

Agreed, at TE.

At the end of the day, MM likes to use 4 and 5 wr sets a lot more than 3 TEs. With 4 TEs, one won't see playing time, unless someone gets hurt. With 5, it's even less possible.

But with 5 wrs, the last one surely will see playing time. And this is not counting injuries...

Ron LC's picture

Right! And as they get down to the last slots to fill, I think they need to select on the basis of ST skills. For example Swain may have better ST skills than Crabtree - Keep Swain. ST skills must be part of the process whn filling those last spots. A persistent problem of MM's that needs to be fixed.

Andre the Giant's picture

I don't think I can say that Crabtree is better than Swain.. And, while his potential is extremely high, I can't say that Quarless is better than Swain at this point, right now, either.

I understand Brett is coming off a serious injury, but he's shown to be a capable ST'er and looked pretty good in last year's camp, and not even that bad in this year's so far, bad knee and all.

Quarless has flashed, and Crabtree is a solid blocker. But if you asked me at this very moment to point to the best football player of the three, I'd have to pick Swain.

Tarynfor12's picture

I can see 2 RB's and 2 FB's.The 3rd and 1 or 2 seems easier or more likely to be made with Kuhn,Johnson and Havner in the tight TE then the basic run package of Grant or jackson which is the problem of our run game to begin with.
Grant is good and will get his yards but is unable to tough the short yardage when the defense is keyed to him.Jackson just seems to fall before he even gets hit in that situation.
I like the 2 FB and 2 TE set on 3rd and short,it may be the free meal ticket to more chain moving for us.

WoodyG's picture

Gado, Morency, Wynn, Lumpkin & now Porter ...... It's becoming a waste of time for GB to expend so much time trying to find a diamond in the rough ..... These guys are undrafted or low drafted for a reason ...... If GB wants to solidify their RB position & avoid the yearly BS with the RB corp, they need to spend a 1st in 2011 before Grant runs out of gas.

aussiepacker's picture

just a quick question, If brett goode is our long snapper and takes up a roster spot why can't he be in on our Oline rotation? Is there a reason?

Corwin's picture

he's only 261lb. Not a typical lineman size-wise

Brando's picture

So this would allow us to keep two punters right? For when whoever we eventually pick fails miserably. ;)

Pack Morris's picture

Oh man, I want to laugh at that, but I can't!

Pack Morris's picture

Is it a foregone conclusion that Quinn Johnson won't make the team? Looking at the roster numbers, it appears he might be the odd man out, but I'd hate to see him bulldozing for someone else.

Andre the Giant's picture

We were talking about the FB situation during one of the practice blogs, and we all sort of wondered where the heck Korey Hall has been. Haven't seen much of Hall at all in the preseason games, and his name hasn't been brought up at all in practice coverage.

From the outside looking in, it seems Hall may not be in the race for a roster spot. Good news for Quinn Johnson. Bad news for Korey. But, who knows how it will pan out.

Pack Morris's picture

I can't find the article now, but I'd read that Kuhn's play on offense and Hall's play on special teams made Quinn Johnson expendable. But I'm right there with you; to me, Hall has been all but invisible lately.

Based on some of his highlight plays, I'm really rooting for QJ. I also met his dad after the Bears game last season - very nice man.

asshalo's picture

Didn't even consider this but it's more plausible now than ever. If Quinn can't stay healthy, bringing in a waived RB for no. 3 wouldn't surprise me either-- at the very least as a candidate for the Practice squad.

Oppy's picture

oh, this is better. I've been (accidentally) posing as Andre the Giant for a while, there.

asshalo's picture

Lol, when asked about the RB situation Rodgers said he completely trusted Grant and Jackson and said they were insured by John Kuhn who suddenly thinks he's a half back

Packnic's picture

I say drop Havner. I know hes doing double duty, but honestly if we ever get to a point where we are counting on Havner as an OLB... we are done-zo anyway. Would rather stick with Quarless, Crabtrees, QJ potential.

2 Qb
2 RB
3 FB
5 WR
4 TE

On a team that would just as soon pass on 3rd and 1 anyway... I think 2 RB is an ok option.

Tarynfor12's picture

Packnic your panicking.Havner is only doing defense due to injuries and why on earth would you want to drop this multi- faceted player.D Lee is the TE that gets traded,take a deep breath and sigh.

Packnic's picture

you we're saying?

packeraaron's picture


ron blouse's picture

kuhn at hb quinn at fullback in goal line is a cant miss!!!!! im telling you kuhn has the best vision on the team with the ball in his hands he will make thing happen....

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