I had a chance once again to talk to scout Chris Landry on Friday on The Steve Duemig Show. Chris is one of the best in the business when it comes evaluating players and teams, both in the NFL and in college football.
I asked Chris why the running game of the Green Bay Packers is so much better in 2013, as opposed to the recent past.
Because of the running backs (Eddie Lacy, James Starks and Johnathan Franklin). That has been the big key. As you know, there have been injuries on the offensive line, but what they have been able to do is establish the running game a little bit more. They have done a good job with their blocking schemes to enable them to run, even though they are struggling some in pass protection. It's the quality of the backs. They've got guys that are making you miss. They are also getting a lot of after-contact yardage.
The Packers are now ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing, as they have run the ball on average at 140.8 yards a game. That includes a very robust 5.2 yards a carry average.
The Packers went 44 straight games without having a 100-yard rusher, but already this season, three backs have done it. James Starks did it first in Week 2, when he ran for 132 yards and a touchdown against the Washington Redskins.
Then in Week 3 versus the Cincinnati Bengals, after Starks went down with a knee injury, rookie Johnathan Franklin rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown.
Landry also talked about other reasons why the Packer ground game has been so effective.
What they are doing, they are running it, not only in run looks, but also running it in pass looks. When they are fully healthy, and we know that they lost two key receivers, and that hurt them, but when they can go to a three-wide set, and force you into seven-man fronts, they can run the football very effectively, even though they aren't blocking that great up front.
But when it's all said and done, Chris gives the real credit to the backs themselves.
It's the quality of the runners. That was the focus this offseason, and they hit it on there. They just need a little more luck in terms of the health department to create more consistency.
Bottom line, the last time the Packers were a top-five running attack in the NFL was the 2003 season, when they were ranked third. The Packers ran for 2,558 yards that year, mostly behind the skills of Ahman Green, who rushed for 1,883 yards himself. The team averaged 5.0 yards a carry that season.
This year, the Packers are on pace for 2,253 yards rushing as a team, which would be an outstanding accomplishment, especially when you combine that with their lethal passing attack behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Right now, the Green Bay offense is ranked second in the NFL in total offense (450.2 yards a game). Just imagine how dangerous the Packer offense would be if everyone was healthy.
As Landry said, the Packers "just need a little more luck in terms of the health department to create more consistency."