Most considered the Packers' offense the lone bright spot in a very disappointing 2008 season. With Aaron Rogers emerging as a quality young quarterback, the team finished fifth in points scored and eighth in yards.
The 2009 offseason, though, has been squarely focused on improving a defensive front seven that had more holes than a bad movie plot. Improving the running game and creating a more balanced offense could be just as important as the defense.
Any time you score a lot of points, it goes a long way towards taking the pressure off a mediocre defense. With a new defensive scheme and coordinator, that might be just what the doctor ordered.
Developing a More Consistent Running Game
The Packers made great strides in this department at the end of the last season. Ryan Grant showed signs that he is ready to become a big-time NFL running back, but still needs to work on providing consistent production.
For the first nine games, the Packers averaged 98.1 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry. In the final seven games, rushing numbers improved to 131.7 and 4.6.
An offensive line entering its fifth season under head coach Mike McCarthy's vaunted zone blocking scheme should also improve on its rank of 20th in negative rushes (43).
Now for the bad news; Grant rushed for 100 yards four times, but also had three games where he averaged less than three yards per rush. His 3.9 yards per carry tied for 21st among the NFL's top 30 rushers.
Obviously these numbers have to improve as Grant will once again be called on to be the team's featured back. With little or no improvement in backups Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn, the Packers need a big year from Grant.
Matching the Style of Your Players
McCarthy ran the ball 43.2% of the time, up from 40.0% in '07. Of course, zone blocking rushes were the main play call, but power runs and tosses were mixed in as well.
Grant is primarily known as a downhill runner that can find holes and annihilate defenders once he gets going. It is time to start tailoring the running game to the players on the roster.
Adding more power runs would really open things up and allow Grant to find his hole, make his move, and get moving downfield. The zone blocking scheme predicates itself on the running back reading the offensive line and making his move. Grant's vision is not his strongest attribute as he sometimes hesitates if he does not immediately see an opening.
This one small change in McCarthy's play calling could give the Packers another powerful weapon to go with a dominant passing game. Also, it can only improve the playaction fakes that Aaron Rogers effectively used last year.
A consistent running game would make the Packers the most complete offense in the NFC North and might just be enough to get back in the playoffs.
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