Barber, Lynch, Or Westbrook Could Help Shore Up Packer Running Back Depth

Mick StephensonCorrespondent ISeptember 17, 2010

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 12:  Marion Barber #24 of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball against Stanford Routt #26 of the Oakland Raiders during the preseason game at Dallas Cowboys Stadium on August 12, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers host the Buffalo Bills this Sunday.  They will enter the game with only one true halfback that knows their offense following Ryan Grant's season ending ankle injury last week in their big win against the Eagles.

Ted Thompson followed his usual protocol in immediately addressing the situation.  Fourth year back Brandon Jackson will see the vast majority of snaps and do most of the ball carrying.  Fullback John Kuhn will move over to provide some third down duty and short yardage plays at halfback.  Undrafted halfback Dimitri Nance was signed off the Atlanta Falcons practice squad to provide depth.

This patchwork backfield should be sufficient for this game.  The season is young.  Jackson has fresh legs.  He also is very effective on third downs with solid blitz pick up skills.  John Kuhn is a versatile back who can fill in where needed.

The question becomes what happens as the season moves forward? The Packers are now just one high ankle sprain away from having a full fledged disaster in their offensive backfield.  If Brandon Jackson were to get injured, opposing defenses would then have no running game to worry about and could blitz the daylights out of Aaron Rodgers.

Prior to this week, the Packers have gone an incredible 42 straight games with the same starting running back and quarterback in the backfield.  The lack of injuries at these two positions is certainly the exception, and not the rule. 

It is clear that the team is a passing team first and foremeost.  They do not need a premier back to carry the offense.  But does anybody really believe the Packers can win a Super Bowl with a running back tandem of John Kuhn and Dimitri Nance? Neither of whom has ever started an NFL game at halfback?

The team is loaded at several positions.  As a result, they have players that would be coveted by other teams as trade possibilities.  There are several other teams that are well stocked at running back yet are desperate for some talent at positions the Packers themselves are well stocked.

Packer General Manager Ted Thompson must look at some potential roster adjustments and trades before disaster strikes again.

There are three veteran running backs whose teams have needs and may be willing to put together a trade with the Packers.

The Buffalo Bills have talented but troubled running back Marshawn Lynch currently as their third string halfback.  They also have major problems at both linebacker and at offensive line.  The Bills could have interest in either Packer linebacker AJ Hawk, or perhaps Desmond Bishop.  The Packers would not be losing much if either was dealt as neither played a single down on defense last week.  The Bills could also be interested in versatile Packer offensive lineman Jason Spitz.  Spitz can start at both guard positions as well as at center.  Spitz would be an upgrade for the Bills at all three positions.

Lynch would be a nice addition as he is a tough inside runner like Ryan Grant.  Lynch played college football with Aaron Rodgers and the Packer quarterback said this week he would welcome his former team mate if a trade was completed.

Marion Barber III is also an intriguing trade prospect.  Barber is very similar to Grant in both build as well as skill set.  The Cowboys have both Felix Jones and Tashard Choice in their backfield and the loss of Barber would not be significant.  The Cowboys, like the Packers a popular NFC Super Bowl favorite, have major problems on their offensive line.  The poor offensive line play was obvious as the Cowboys offense looked impotent against the Redskins last week.  Jason Spitz along with a middle round draft pick could be enough to complete a deal.

One more potential trade prospect would be 49er running back Brian Westbrook.  The Packers discussed adding the former Eagles star in the off season before electing to pass on him based on concerns over Westbrook's concussions he has suffered over the last couple of seasons.  Westbrook did not play a single down in the 49ers loss to Seattle last  week.  The Packers could offer Spitz or perhaps backup tight end Donald Lee.  Lee could bring sorely need blocking to the 49ers and give them  blocking alternative to their star tight end Vernon Davis.

Any of these three veteran backs would benefit the Packers.  Even if Brandon Jackson remains healthy and effective, these vets could make the offense better.  Most importantly, if Jackson were to be injured, they could step in and start without a large drop off in talent.

Most NFL teams now use two halfback extensively each week.  The Packers are one injury away from having no experienced halfback.  The solutions are out there.  Will Ted Thompson be proactive?  Or could the Packers be facing a team like the Vikings late in the season with John Kuhn being their primary ball carrier?

A potential trip to the Super Bowl could be riding on this question.