Brandon Saine: Will 2012 Be a Breakout Year for the Green Bay Packers RB?

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Brandon Saine: Will 2012 Be a Breakout Year for the Green Bay Packers RB?
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Brandon Saine

Last summer, as the NFL was still in a lockout mode, I was surmising what group of undrafted rookies the Green Bay Packers might sign once the lockout ended.

Usually, undrafted rookies are signed immediately after the NFL draft in any given year, but 2011 played by it's own set of rules because of the lockout.

The 2011 NFL draft still was held, but no other transactions would be allowed until the lockout ended.

The lockout started on March 11th and lasted until July 25th.

Once it ended, it was a crazy time in all front offices in the NFL. Teams frantically had to sign their drafted rookies and also any free agents they might be interested in, which would include undrafted rookie free agents. 

I talked about all this when I wrote a story for Packer Chatters last year. I also mentioned a group of rookie players that the Packers might sign, and included in that group was Brandon Saine.

Saine indeed did sign with the Packers and ended up making the practice squad after a strong training camp and some nice play in the preseason.

He was then added to the active roster on October 31st, after rookie RB Alex Green suffered a knee injury and was placed on injured reserve.  

The rookie out of Ohio State ended up playing in eight games for the Packers in 2011. Saine didn't wow people with his stats, as he only rushed for 69 yards and only caught 10 passes for 69 more yards.

However, Saine did impress the coaching staff because he was very good with his assignments and was on the field with the offensive unit when it was crunch time.

The Packers were 15-1 in 2011 and didn't play in a lot of games that came down to final drives. But the game against the New York Giants on the road in early December did.

The game was tied 35-35 when Aaron Rodgers took the Packers down the field from their own 20 with only 58 seconds left in the game. The drive ended with a 30-yard field goal by Mason Crosby as time expired.

Brandon Saine was on the field with the offensive unit on that drive. Saine proved to the coaching staff that he could be trusted in key points of the game.

Why?

He runs hard and fast, catches the ball very well and also is good at picking up blitzes. What's not to like?

Saine never fumbled the ball in all of his years at Ohio State. He rushed for over 1,400 yards and scored 9 TDs in his career as a Buckeye. Saine also had 55 career catches for eight more TDs.

As the Packers get ready for training camp later this month, it appears that the they are going to camp with three returning young veterans at RB—James Starks, Alex Green and Saine. The Packers also have a couple of undrafted rookies—Marc Tyler and Du'ane Bennett—trying to make names for themselves this preseason.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
James Starks

As of right now, it appears that Ryan Grant will not be among those vying for positions on the team, as he is still an unrestricted free agent.

It appears that Starks will be given the opportunity to be the main RB on the team, as he has shown flashes of being that type of RB.

In the 2010 postseason, as the Green Bay Packers were marching their way to a Super Bowl XLV championship, Starks led all NFL RBs with 315 yards rushing. The Packers would like to see production like that on a consistent basis. 

However, Starks has been injury prone for the past few seasons, including his senior year in college, which he missed due to a shoulder injury. In 2010, Starks missed most of the 2010 regular season as he battled hamstring issues, before he broke out in the 2010 postseason.

In 2011, Starks ran for 578 yards (a healthy 4.3 yard rushing average) and a TD and had 29 receptions for 216 more yards.

Once again, however, some injury issues set back his progress. Starks played in 13 games but was hampered by ankle and knee injuries.

Starks also fumbled twice and had his fair share of missed assignments.

Green will also be given an opportunity to shine once he is ready to play. He is still rehabbing from his knee-reconstruction surgery, and he believes that he will get a shot at quality playing time once he is fully healthy.

Scott Boehm/Getty Images
Alex Green

“Not drafting a running back showed they have some faith in me,” Green told PackersNews.com. “We’ll see how things turn out when training camp comes around.”

 

One RB has stood out to the coaching staff so far this year in OTAs and the minicamp.

That RB is Brandon Saine.

"Brandon (Saine) is so consistent, probably the most consistent guy we have back there," said head coach Mike McCarthy during a one of the OTAs held by the Packers in June. (h/t cheeseheadtv.com)

We shall see what happens once training camp starts and how the RB situation plays out. All I know is that you shouldn't be surprised if Brandon Saine gets a lot of playing time once everything unfolds.

Especially during crunch time.

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