Green Bay Packers: 5 Reasons the Pack's Running Game Needs Improvement
The Green Bay Packers have struggled so far this season, losing more games in the first three weeks than they lost in the entirety of last season.
After a big win against the Houston Texans on Sunday, the Packers finally looked like last season's team. While the passing game and the defense looked better against the Texans, one area was still missing: the running game.
The Packers running backs put up just 99 yards on 31 attempts among Alex Green, John Kuhn and James Starks.
If the Packers want to continue to right the ship and bring another Lombardi trophy to its rightful home at Lambeau Field, they need to improve on the ground.
Here are five reasons why.
1. Help the Passing Game
The Packers running backs need to improve to help the focal point of the Green Bay offense: the passing game.
Aaron Rodgers can be nearly unstoppable when he has time to throw and receivers who can make catches. Add in a viable running game and the Packers can't lose.
The running backs need to get better so opposing defenses don't have to just focus on the passing game. If the backs can turn it on and start picking up some yardage, defenses will have to respect the run, which will allow A-rodg and company to hit the deep passes that they've been missing on all season.
Another way that an improved passing game will help the offense is in the offensive line. If the running backs can pick up more yardage and start running smarter, the offensive line will gain confidence.
If the defense is coming at Rodgers with a heavy pass rush all game and the Packers can start running the football, defenses will over pursue and Alex Green and James Starks will be racking up yardage.
2. Help the Defense
An improved running game can help the defense too.
As we saw at the end of the Indianapolis game, the Packers' defensive unit can get tired and when it gets tired, it can spell bad news for the team. Toward the end of the Indy game, Andrew Luck kept the Packers defense on the field as he put together a great drive finding Reggie Wayne over and over.
After Cedric Benson went down with an injury, Alex Green racked up just 63 yards on the ground for the Packers (41 yards coming on one play). Because of the struggling running game, the Packers came out firing late in the game and had a few three-and-out possessions that took less than a minute off the clock.
Imagine if Cedric Benson or Alex Green could've busted off a few runs toward the end of the game. Instead of taking a minute or two off the clock they could've run the rock and taken three or four minutes off and possibly changed the outcome of the game.
If the running backs can improve, they'll gain more yards and take more time off the clock which will not only help the scoreboard but will also give the defense a much needed break in crucial situations.
3. When They Run, They Win
Now for the most obvious reason that the running game needs to improve. When the Packers run well, they win. This season the Packers are just 3-3. In each of the games that they have won, they've run for at least 65 yards or more.
This shows that the Packers don't need to come out and run for 200 yards per game; they need just enough of a running attack to get wins. If the backs of the Pack keep improving and can provide just a little support on the ground, they'll be able to keep adding to the win column in the coming weeks.
Backs don't need to put up 1,000 yards or anything (though it would be nice). Heck, the last time the Packers had a back rush for over 700 yards was Brandon Jackson in the 2010-2011 season. The same season the Packers brought the Lombardi trophy home.
4. Remaining Schedule
The Packers' running game needs to improve for a lot of reasons, but as you saw on the last slide, winning is the main reason. One major factor in capturing those evasive wins is the schedule. Thankfully for the Packers, their schedule isn't too difficult in the next few weeks, which makes a better running game that much more important.
The Packers running game needs to improve because they're playing weak teams in the coming weeks. Coming up the Packers play the St. Louis Rams, who are allowing more than 100 yards on the ground per game. While it may seem pretty good to allow just 100 yards a game, remember that the Packers have won every time they've gone over 65 yards on the ground.
After the Rams the Packers play Jacksonville, the third worst team against the run. Following the Jags, the Packers' non-conference schedule includes the Cardinals, the Giants and the Titans, who are all in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards allowed per game.
It's important for the running game to improve because that's the weakness of the non-conference foes remaining on their schedule. If the Packers can start running, they'll keep winning.
5. Running Well Will Secure the NFC North
My final reason that the Packers running game needs to improve is simple. They need to improve their ground game because their NFC North opponents are good at stopping the run. The Lions and Vikings are ranked 12th and 11th against the run, respectively, while the Bears are the best team in the NFL at stopping the run.
The Packers need to play better on the ground because if they don't, they won't be able to win the division. The Packers were able to hang 81 yards on the ground against the Bears in their Thursday night victory in Week 2 this season, but they had Cedric Benson.
All of the good defensive units in the NFC North know that the Packers want to pass the ball, and if the Packers can't surprise them with a much improved running attack, the Pack might be on the outside of the playoff race this winter.
There you have it. While the Packers have a great passing game and a big play defense, they'll need to improve their running game if they want to make a run for the Super Bowl.
Players like Alex Green and James Starks will have to work together to give the Packers a viable option out of the backfield.
Stepping up the ground attack will help all phases of the game for the Pack and in the end will help them rack up wins.