As the Packers’ 2009 training camp begins, here are the developments I want to see on the offensive side of the ball by the time the Packers break camp.
Developments I want to see on Offense:
Quinn Johnson wins at least a portion of the fullback job: For the Packers offense to be successful, the running game has to improve, especially the power running game. Protecting a lead late in games was a key failure point for the Packers last year.
The ability to grind out the tough yards late in games is a demoralizing dagger to your opponent. A power fullback leading those runs is just that much better. John Kuhn and Korey Hall have done an adequate job as blockers, but neither one would scare me. Quinn Johnson, however, is big, powerful, and would definitely put a little fear in me.
Johnson caught the eye of Packers scouts, leading to his selection by the Packers in the fifth round.
Says head coach Mike McCarthy, “Quinn, when you watch him play at LSU, when he hits you, he keeps moving forward. He definitely has that lead blocking ability that you’re definitely looking for in tight situations, whether it be short-yardage, goal-line, or first and second down, getting up and leading on those linebackers.”
So, I’m looking for the Mighty Quinn to live up to the hype (sounds weird for a 5th round draft pick, I know). If he is half of what he has been made out to be in the Packers Blogosphere, then we should be able to lessen the three-and-outs and keep those lead-keeping, time-eating late drives going.
Running Backs: Kregg Lumpkin makes the roster. OK, so this is blatantly self-serving, being that I wrote an article making the outlandish declaration that he is the best running back on the team.
But putting that aside, Lumpkin is a power runner like Ryan Grant, but with better vision and moves. He can make defenders miss, doesn’t run into his blockers (unlike Grant) and can push the pile when a hole isn’t there.
As Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press Gazette recently wrote “RB Kregg Lumpkin is the picture of form…he gets low while also keeping the ball high…” He is also a very good receiver, something else “Hands of Stone” Grant is not.
Lumpkin was the No. 2 running back prospect in the nation coming out of high school (some guy named Reggie Bush was No. 1). But his career since then has been a major disappointment because of inconsistency and the fact that he simply cannot stay healthy.
Competition for the last running back spot is fierce, with DeShawn Wynn and Tyrell Sutton also looking good. For Lumpkin to win the job, that would mean that he has finally put it all together. If that were to happen, the Packers would reap the rewards of having unearthed a real “hidden gem.” That’s what I’m hoping for.
Aaron Rodgers as a leader: Few will dispute that Aaron Rodgers did a fine job in his first year replacing the Packers’ legendary QB, (he whose name we do not speak.) The only criticism you could render would be in the execution of the two-minute offense. But replacing a legend might be one of the most difficult tasks in sports.
You will forever be compared, undeserved as that may be. In the case of a quarterback, it’s about more than just touchdowns and interceptions, it’s about leadership. I don’t feel that Rogers was ready last year for that part of the job.
I think he was still a bit immature (I’m sure you saw his long hair, shaggy beard, and wacky hats). Whether he would admit it or not, running through his mind were probably thoughts about measuring up and insecurities about being THE MAN.
Now that he’s had a year to convince himself that he is capable on and off the field, there are signs that he could be ready for the role.
First, he has “cleaned himself up.” No more California slumming look. He looks like a quarterback now (although he has the beard growing again). You may consider this silly, but if anyone thinks appearance does not influence how others perceive you, then you’re not in touch with reality.
There are other signs. Here are some recent comments about Rodgers from Packers head Coach Mike McCarthy: “The biggest change I see is just really the interaction and the way he treats (his teammates) and the way his teammates treat him. You are definitely seeing his leadership ability moving forward.”
This writer wants to see Rodgers come out of that always laid back California cool persona. When it’s required, he can’t be afraid to get in the face of teammates that are screwing up. He needs to demand top performance from his teammates, and in return, he will gain their respect and confidence. Once he has that, the Packers’ two-minute drill problems will dissipate.
Offensive Line: There are so many possible outcomes here, I could write a short novel. Yet that, in itself, is the whole problem. So I’ll keep this simple. There is ONE thing I want to see. CONTINUITY. A set 5 guys with reserves that know their roles and what positions they might be asked to play. The offensive line merry-go-round has to stop!
Check back for the next installment when I will cover the defensive side of the ball. To read the previous installment on the kicking game, look HERE.
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