Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers Rushing Game Will Struggle for Long Gains
Let's face it, the non-aerial portion of the Packers offense needs work.
And if we are being completely honest, it needs a lot of work.
Most teams employ a two or three back rotation, with different skill sets per back. This leaves defenses exhausted both mentally and physically as they try to stop two to three different types of running attacks, while also watching for the passing game.
The Packers have yet to find a consistent running game with Ryan Grant, or anyone since the departure of Ahman Green for that matter.
In the last several years they have been reluctant to use a trade or draft pick on a high profile half back.
If Grant is unable to find his explosiveness he showcased late in 2007, perhaps it is time to draft a big name runner in April of 2010.
Grant will gain 5-10 yards every so often, but more often than not he is stuffed for a minimal gain or even a short loss.
He averages around three yards per carry, a far cry from where a premier back is supposed to be.
He has shown either an inability or just plain hesitation to make one cut, and go the distance of the run.
Sunday’s matchup at home vs. the Bears did not give the average rushing enthusiast any reason to believe this year can or will be any different.
In what was supposed to be the coming out party for a talent laden roster on offense, Grant failed to set the tone for his assignment.
He had a simple task, one he is used to getting but not used to producing under.
Run the ball effectively.
Get the defense creeping up.
Make the play action pass freeze the defense.
Set the defense up for the big play.
Grant was effective in one of these aspects, and that was selling the play fake long enough to allow his QB to hit a 50-yard bomb.
Prior to that, Grant’s positive numbers were few and far between.
His only plays to exceed 10 yards were for 17 and 25.
He finished the night with 61 yards on 16 carries. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry, but that number is more than a little misleading.
He accounted for 42 of his 61 yards on 2 carries, averaging 21 yards per rush.
Those numbers are great. Unfortunately, he had 19 yards on 14 carries during the rest of the game.
That averages out to .7 yards per carry.
LESS THAN A YARD PER CARRY FOR OVER 90% OF THE GAME.
I am not aware of a word in the English language that will get across just how bad a running game the Packers have. I will try.
During the first half of the 2007 season, the Packers went 7-1 while mostly choosing to forgo a running attack. Perhaps the time has come to revisit that particular game plan.
Even if Grant can somehow begin to find his rhythm, the Packers do not have quality depth at the position should he need a breather.
Brandon Jackson was a second round choice in 2008, coming off two offseason shoulder surgeries.
He has since proven to be an undersized runner who is inconsistent and injury-prone.
Even when he is on the field he has only been able to average 4.8 yards, mostly during garbage time.
DeShawn Wynn was a seventh round choice out of Florida in 2007, and has shown a general lack of vision on the field when he is presented with the football. He was given three rushes last night, and was able to gain a total of eight yards. Over the course of his short career he has averaged 25 yards per game.
Earth, Wind, and Fire these HB’s are not.
Grant, their first stringer, came out of college undrafted and spent his first two years on the Giants practice squad. Since then he has averaged just over four yards per carry and gained over 2,000 yards. He may have been the most disappointing 1,000 yard rusher in 2008.
To be perfectly honest, I would have a hard time believing any of the running backs on the Packers roster would be able to find a starting job on one of the 31 other teams in the league.
So we know the past.
Since the start of 2007 the Packers running backs have averaged 92 yards per game, well beneath what you would hope for.
Perhaps the backs are not entirely to blame.
The Packers have a two headed monster when it comes to running disappointments, and the other half is the blocking of the line.
The offensive line is ever changing, except for perhaps Chad Clifton, the stalwart left tackle acquired out of Tennessee in 2000.
Daryn Colledge has spent the last three years at left guard and tackle, rarely impacting the game the way Packers brass intended when he was chosen out of Boise State.
Jason Spitz was selected out of Louisville in 2006, and has split time at center with veteran Scott Wells.
Josh Sitton has started only three games over two seasons, and is now the Pack’s starting right guard after being drafted out of Central Florida.
Allen Barbre, a rookie out of Missouri Southern State, has the unwanted task of replacing long time right tackle Mark Tauscher, who was left unsigned following 2008 knee injuries. Tauscher was a hometown favorite known for his run blocking after spending his collegiate career at Wisconsin and spending eight years with the Packers.
Notice anything interesting about the men on the line?
They are almost all pass blocking specialists.
Chad Clifton spent four years at Tennessee blocking for Peyton Manning and Tee Martin.
Daryn Colledge spent four years at Boise State blocking for trick plays ran by Jared Zebranski.
Jason Spitz spent most of his days pass blocking in Bobby Petrino’s pass heavy offense.
Josh Sitton spent time in college blocking for a run first team behind Kevin Smith, the running back for Detroit who has yet to gain 1000 yards through 13 NFL starts.
Allen Barbre spent time in college excelling at the left tackle position, usually a predominant pass blocker.
Starting to see the issue?
Most of these guys have spent their collegiate and professional careers blocking for pass first teams, so what chance does a running game have?
Basically to make this work, you need a shifty runner who knows how to get into open space. The Packers do not currently have a running back with this skill set on their roster, and have yet to make a move for one.
The Packers basically will need to be satisfied with a 3-4 yard per carry average, and be a pass first and pass heavy offense.
Grant is primarily a “trucking” back, who will charge his way into defenders, wearing them down and making pass blocking easier on his teammates.
The Packers will be a pass first team even if they get a first rate back in the style of Adrian Petersen as they have spent millions of dollars and high draft picks to acquire the proper pieces to a stellar aerial attack.
Look for Grant to be more of a diversion rather than a workhorse, opening up the passing game via play-action fakes.
Grant should see 2-300 carries, average 3-4 yards per carry, and gain around 1200 yards.
He will be great against teams such as Cincinatti, Detroit, and perhaps even St. Louis, but will have major problems running on the Vikings, Cowboys, Steelers, and Rams.
Luckily for Grant, the passing attack amassed over 4,000 yards last season, and is looking to improve upon that number.
Hopefully the Pack can get a back similar to Edgerrin James or Joseph Addai that can be productive in the passing game and use the running game to open up the play action fakes, a game plan Peyton Manning has been taking advantage of for the better part of the current decade.
As long as the Packers can score 21-28 points passing and their defense can allow 20 or less, the run by committee approach should work this season.
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