The Green Bay Packers have certainly exceeded expectations given the number of injuries that have decimated their roster. They have lost big time starters in Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley on offense, while losing Nick Barnett, Morgan Burnett, and Brad Jones to season ending injuries. The team has responded well to these injuries.
One such example is the running game. With the loss of Grant, Brandon Jackson has stepped into the starting role, with John Kuhn moving from fullback to running back, and the addition of Dmitri Nance to the roster. The recently activated James Starks has also added an extra body to the Packers' unit of running backs.
Now, with such a tough schedule standing between the Packers and the post-season, Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy must add a new wrinkle into the game plan: run the football more in games.
With Grant's loss, the Packers were thin at running back, and thus became more one dimensional without the threat of a Ryan Grant in the backfield. Jackson saw improvement week by week, but was not receiving enough carries in games. Kuhn is not a true half back, and was a poor substitute for receiving carries, and belongs at his natural fullback position. McCarthy became more conservative by passing through much of the first few games.
Now, coming into Week 11, the Packers have now grown some more comfort with Nance, Jackson has gained more trust, and Starks has been added and is looking to see the field soon since 2008. McCarthy must establish a running game if the Packers are to really become a big contender for the post season, or win the NFC North division, which they haven't done since 2007.
The use of the running game will allow for the Packers to better utilize their offense, and make them even more unpredictable, especially in the red zone. A better running game also allows for better play action opportunities and opens up McCarthy's playbook for their Wes Coast Offense. McCarthy's West Coast offense works best with a functional running game.
To do that, they can now move Kuhn back to fullback, and rely upon the three more natural backs they do have in Jackson, Nance, and Starks.
With a healthier group of running backs available, the Packers can now be primed to win the NFC North and proceed to the post-season, with Super Bowl aspirations.
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