Can Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson Break Out of the Frozen Tundra Backfield?
I was just as excited as the next Packer fan when I saw Ryan Grant rush for 956 yards in only 10 games last season. The 6'1", 218-pound RB from New York seemed to find holes easier then Brett Favre found receivers.
The performance continued into the postseason, where Grant nearly became a living Green Bay legend on that snowy day against the Seattle Seahawks. Then, however, the legend seem to stall when Grant posted a dismal 29 yards in the 23-20 loss against the eventual Super Bowl Champions.
Nevertheless, the efforts of Grant, and even late bloomer Brandon Jackson, made the running future look bright for the Packer organization.
The start of the 2008 season began exactly the way I didn't want it to. Grant asked for a contract extension, which I fully know he deserved, but I have never been comfortable with long contract negotiations that are based on the latter half of one season.
After the four-year, $30 million contract was settled, I was ready to see just what Grant had to offer the Pack, and just what he and the Packer backfield could do to support our new field general, Aaron Rodgers.
The Packer backfield now consists of running backs Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson, and newcomer Kregg Lumpkin. Fullbacks Korey Hall and John Kuhn support, while the previous starter, DeShawn Wynn, was squeezed by the final cut and landed on the Packer practice squad.
Grant performed amazingly last year, while the 63rd pick of the 2007 draft Brandon Jackson bloomed later in the year. Kregg Lumpkin is the newcomer, but he beat out two veteran players for the final RB slot.
Aaron Rodgers has managed a stalwart performance in the face of amazing adversity. Both Packer faithful and Packer haters produced a never-ending stream of doubt. I for one was much more worried about how Ryan Grant would perform than Aaron Rodgers.
The new QB has managed to carry the Pack on his back for the past five games without so much as a running attack and decent protection. The Packer WR corps, led by Donald Driver, continues to support Rodgers effectively and without serious injury. The playoff hopes for Green Bay remain uncertain, and none of it has anything to do with what everyone thought would be the problem. Instead it rests on the shoulders of two shaky running backs and a smashed defense.
Of all the players on the Green Bay roster, Grant and his fellow RB Jackson are the two I can't figure out. The Packers' offensive line has done a dismal job in opening holes and protecting Aaron Rodgers, while the defense suffers from extensive injuries.
Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher are the only two veterans remaining from the formidable OL of the early decade, but even now Clifton has become beset by injuries. The best example I saw (and by far most painful), was the OL trying to move the beasts planted firmly on the Dallas DL.
Grant has been unable to find effective running lanes, while the Packers' DL gets pushed too easily. Grants' numbers stand at 73 carries for 269 yards on average of 3.7 with no touchdowns. Jackson stands at 20 carries for 104 yards at a 5.2 average and one lone touchdown.
If only Aaron Rodgers could carry the whole team, but unfortunately, with the defense as morally and physically trashed as it is, Rodgers is going to need all the help he can get.
Grant emerged as the premier running back of the NFC last year. Now that Favre has departed and Rodgers has taken the helm, a little more support from not only Grant and his fellow carriers, but also the offensive line is needed to save the Packer season.
If the offensive line can mount an effective turn around, perhaps Grant and Jackson will finally post numbers that honor past endeavors. In my mind, they are a dormant volcano that just needs the right push to erupt. The only question that remains is when will the eruption be triggered, and will it be in time to relieve Rodgers and the overstretched Packer defense.
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