Green Bay Packers: Who Will Be the Feature Back for the Packers

Justis MosquedaFeatured ColumnistJune 13, 2011

With aging wide receivers, tackles and corner backs, the biggest needs for the 2012 NFL draft are set in stone for the Green Bay Packers, but the biggest question mark isn't one of those positions. The Super Bowl champs' biggest uncertainty isn't even at defensive end where Johnny Jolly and Cullen Jenkins seem to be out of the picture but at running back. 

In a spread offense like the Packers run, the running back position can easily be overlooked. Everyone knows the names of Greg Jennings, Aaron Rodgers, Donald Driver, and after the Super Bowl, the names like James Jones and Jordy Nelson became known by the casual football fan too.

But if I asked who was the season leader in rushing yards for the Packers was, about 90 percent of the fans (hardcore or not) would get it wrong. The answer? Ryan Grant? Nope he was hurt after one game. James Starks? He was the main back mostly in the postseason, but in the regular season he only had 101 yards. The answer is Brandon Jackson, a current free agent when the CBA gets solved. 

No one really knows who will finish the season as the starter or who will be the starter in 2012, but most are assuming right now that Ryan Grant has the job locked at least to start off the 2011 season. You are probably asking, “ If he is the starter to begin the season then why is RB a big need?”

Well to start off, this is assuming that Ryan Grant has fully recovered from his injury that ended his year last season. Nothing is certain, especially when he has has around 800 carries the three seasons before he got hurt. As far as all-around backs go, Grant is by far the best, but this is his last year on his contract, and with the amount of money he is making currently, there is no way the Packers could keep him at that price. 

Outside of the majority (Grant supporters) the rest is mostly made up of fans that think that sophomore James Starks will be the feature back in 2012. Starks was on the Physically Unable to Perform list until mid-season last year and is still very raw and unproven.

His low rushing yards is tricky because it seems like he has had barely any carries at all, but when you add the four playoff games under his belt, he seems like he could be a pretty capable starter, nothing flashy but for sure worth that sixth-round pick the White Wizard used on him. 

Brandon Jackson, although the starter and leading rusher for last year, doesn't figure to be back for next season. I don't want to say that he is in the NFL just for money, but he has acknowledged several times that he left Nebraska early so that way he could cash in money and help his mom and the rest of his family out.

He seems like a good character, but with Drew Rosenhaus as his new agent and the Packers saving some RB money for the potential 2012 Grant signing, I can't see Jackson being back in Green and Gold next year. 

The interesting thing about McCarthy and his offense is that it really likes pass-catching RB's. Ricky Williams, Arron Stecker, Deuce McAllister, Frank Gore, Kevan Barlow, Vernand Morency and Noah Herron are some of the many RB's that he has used as pass catchers out of the backfield since starting out as a OC in New Orleans in 2000.

The latest RB who played that role for him was Brandon Jackson. So as far as the difference between this year and last year, it should be business as usual except the receptions out of the backfield from Jackson, no one will really miss his east/west running style that never seems to payoff. But the fact that he had more receptions per game than the probable No. 2 WR (Jordy Nelson) next year means that he will be significantly missed in the passing game. 

Knock, knock. Who's there? Alex Green, future star running back of the Green Bay Packers. The rusher from Hawaii played in the perfect offense to be the third-down RB for Green Bay, almost passing 80 percent of the time while in the Rainbow State.

The rookie was drafted at the end of the third round in this year's draft, and as we have seen recently, rookie running backs are one of the easiest transitions for the NFL. Not only should he be the third-down back/pass catcher from the backfield that McCarthy needs to replace, but he is a bigger bodied back so he could also grind and pound the ball late in the game and on short yard plays. Nothing is better than fresh legs in the fourth quarter. James Starks is kind of tall and skinny, a good change-of-pace back but not the McCarthy feature back type. 

See anything in common? These are McCarthy's leaders in rushing yard ever since he became a OC: Ricky Williams 2000-2001 (5'11” 230); Deuce McAllister 2002-2004 (6'1” 232); Kevan Barlow 2005 (6'2” 235); Ahman Green 2006 (6'0” 220); Ryan Grant 2007-2009 (6'1” 222); and Brandon Jackson 2010 (5'10” 216).

It seems like McCarthy always used bigger backs until he arrive in Green Bay and just worked with what he had. Obviously last year that came back and bit him in the butt when he couldn't run the ball at the end of the year.

Alex Green was brought in to bring the power catching back (6'0” 230) to Green Bay. After talking to several semi-pro and pro scouts, the general consensus is that Alex Green is a copy of Deuce McAllister, McCarthy's former lead back. Only time will tell, but it seems like Alex Green has a good shot at being the Packers' feature back for the years to come as long as Mike is still running the offense.