The Green Bay Packers have finally found something that can help their running game, and I'm not talking about the signing of former Packer Pro-Bowler Ahman Green. No, quite accidentally (thanks to the injury to Korey Hall and the blowout of the Lions), the Packers finally put fifth round draft choice Quinn Johnson onto the field.
With a safe 26-0 lead and only the hapless Lions to hold off for one quarter, Coach Mike McCarthy took the opportunity to see what Quinn Johnson could do in live game action.
Inactive for the first five games as fullback No. 3 in the Packers fullback triumvirate, Johnson finally got to play in a regular season NFL game. Based on Johnson's performance and the success of the running game in the fourth quarter, McCarthy may have found a serviceable power running game for the Packers.
Quinn Johnson lined up for 13 snaps in the fourth quarter of the Lions game. The last two were Aaron Rodgers kneel-downs, so lets throw those out and call it eleven snaps. Here's a quick synopsis of what Quinn Johnson did on those eleven snaps:
1. Grant runs to the right, Johnson has a backside seal block and he successfully keeps his man away from the play.
2. Straight lead blocker into the hole with Grant following. Johnson meets the linebacker head-on and neutralizes him. LB has no chance at a tackle.
3. (See No. 2)
4. Johnson PANCAKES the linebacker. Meets him head-on, ties him up and throws him onto his back.
5. Leads into the hole, sideswipes the linebacker out of the play then continues on and throws a cut block at another player.
6. In a short yardage situation (third and one), Johnson ties up the linebacker, keeping him sealed to the inside. Kuhn runs behind Johnson to get the first down.
7. Johnson blasts into the hole, blocks the linebacker and pushes him back five yards down field. The linebacker tries to get away and Johnson continues to chase after him until the whistle blows.
8. Johnson PANCAKES a Lions linebacker. Johnson comes through the hole, heads for the outside linebacker, meets him head on and pulverizes him. The Lions linebacker seems to disappear into Johnson like a scene from Alien played backwards.
9. Leading Ryan Grant off-tackle, a Lions linebacker takes himself out of the play in an attempt to avoid Johnson's block. That, plus TJ Lang sprinting 10 yards down field from the other side to make a block, help Ryan Grant spring loose for a 22-yard gain, his longest of the season.
10. Johnson can't find anyone to block on this play, as the Detroit defenders have obviously figured out it's better to avoid him.
11. Johnson leads Ryan Grant into the hole, standing up the linebacker with another successful block.
One big thing you should take from the descriptions above - you'll notice there is not even ONE case of a missed block or assignment. Johnson knew exactly where to be, who to block and how to do it. Johnson has come a long way from training camp, where he struggled with learning the offense, running too upright and missing or not holding blocks.
That last part is the key. Johnson is now holding blocks and not letting the defender slip away. In training camp, Johnson was trying too hard to blow up opponents with a single hit. That may have worked in college, but the NFL is a whole different story. NFL defenders can take a hit and brush it off. Johnson has learned to take the player on squarely with his his elbows extended and to keep the defender centered in front of him using his forearms. That allows him to hold the block longer and then use leverage to potentially drive him to the ground for the pancake. His blocking techniques are markedly improved. Kudos to Johnson and running backs coach Edgar Bennett for bringing about this transformation so quickly.
So now that we've seen what Quinn Johnson can bring, will we see Coach McCarthy commit the Packers to more of a power running game, utilizing Quinn Johnson and playing more to Ryan Grant's strengths? The Cleveland Browns appear to be the perfect test case and the perfect opportunity for the Packers to establish confidence in some type of running game before Brett Favre and the Vikings come to Lambeau. This is one writer who says, "Bring on the Mighty Quinn!"
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