Packers Weekly Progress Report: Starks Down, Green Next Man Up in Backfield
Coming off a win where the ground game was more efficient than it has been since Cedric Benson was lost to injury, the Packers looked like a team which would finally be able to effectively move the ball on the ground.
48 hours later, reports surfaced that James Starks needed knee surgery and might be lost for the season. The team attempted to fill that hole by signing former Packer Ryan Grant Wednesday morning but it's not a great situation for a ground game which seemed to finally be getting its feet under it.
What does that mean going forward?
The perception of what the Packers do on offense is actually a little skewed from the reality over the last four games.
In that time the offense has actually been pretty well-balanced, not the all or nothing passing attack that fans assume it is. Over that stretch, the offense has run 117 passing attempts to 114 runs.
You could add in Aaron Rodgers' 15 scrambles in either column so I left them out—though 99% of the time when Rodgers scrambles, it's a busted pass play.
Still, 132 to 114 isn't weighted that heavily in favor of the pass, though it is the clear 'favorite'.
So immediately, let's acknowledge that the actual impact here could be greater than one naturally assumes when it comes to the Packers' offense and running the ball.
Alex Green is the lone remaining running back from the preseason. He's played better the last few weeks and his presence on some third down plays is an indication that the Packers have gotten more comfortable with his blocking.
Green is a solid back with good speed, a little shiftiness and a determined running style. He can catch the ball well and also has shown some propensity for finding yards after the catch or after contact.
He's still very raw though, and we don't know how he will hold up as the main back here.
Which he will be, because while Ryan Grant is familiar with the team and the offensive schemes, he hasn't played in months.
It's going to be a while before he is fully up to speed and conditioned enough to split the carries with Green. Also, let's be honest—the Packers and every other team has let him sit unemployed for some time—that doesn't exactly leave you with a resounding sense of confidence.
So this weekend against the Detroit Lions, Green will be the main back. Behind him would have been former Buffalo Bills running back Johnny White and a guy called up from the practice squad in DuJuan Harris.
News broke on Wednesday afternoon that White was placed on Injured Reserve, though, due to concussion issues.
Harris has some speed but is undersized and not likely to hold up to a heavy workload.
Of course, there is also fullback John Kuhn. Kuhn made some very nice catches last weekend, but his work in actually running the ball is uninspiring, though he is nasty at the goal line. He may see some more carries, but it's not an ideal solution.
The one X-factor here is Randall Cobb. The Packers have been lining him up in the backfield anyway to some positive results, so we could see him take a few more snaps from there this weekend and going forward.
That might actually be a good thing as Cobb is a tremendous threat with the ball in his hands—so getting it there right off the snap isn't a bad idea.
Still, he's not built to take a pounding like a running back, so it's not an option they can lean on heavily.
The Packers have won without a heavy run game before—with the exception of one huge game by Starks, they didn't run the ball much in 2010 when they won the Super Bowl.
Green is a solid option and as long as he stays healthy, the offense should still be able to run the ball effectively.
Once Grant gets up to speed, he should end up with most of the extra carries over Harris and White though he is unlikely to end up with significant carries.
There is a mantra among some Packers fans which goes something like "why run if you can win"?
Hopefully the Packers can prove that saying right in the coming weeks
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