With Grant surely gone, the Packers give the keys to Starks, Green

Ryan Grant has been a tough inside runner and a very good receiver out of the backfield for the Packers the past five years. However, it looks like his days in Green Bay are numbered. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Surely Packers brass aren’t going to come out and talk about it, but I feel there are more than a few reasons the team isn’t considering bringing running back Ryan Grant back to Green Bay.

However, for me, the tipping point was the fumble Grant gave up in the Divisional Playoff Game last January against the New York Giants. Though it wasn’t a game-changer and one of a bazillion turnovers the Packers gave up that day, I think the team leaders lost confidence in the running back who provided so much potential, but never really gave the team what they expected from a veteran. Throw in the fact that he will be demanding more than they want to pay him and the Packers will surely just let him walk.

Grant carried the ball 134 times last season for 559 yards (4.2 yard average) and two touchdowns last season. Not statistics one would point to as impressive for the team’s starting running back.

He has spent all five of his professional seasons with the Green Bay Packers and has overall been a valuable and productive player. The team acquired him in 2007 trade with the New York Giants and he was immediately thrust onto the field. He ran for 956 yards that season and then followed that with two straight 1,200 yard-plus seasons. In  2008, he ran for 1,203 yards and had another 1,200-plus season in 2009. An injury in the first game of the season at Philadelphia in 2010 not only hurt his career, but also put the team in a pickle until James Starks came alive late in the season to help lead the Packers to a Super Bowl.

Grant has run for 4,016 yards and a 4.3 yard average during his time in Green Bay and has also caught 92 passes for nearly 1,000 yards.

Needless to say, he’s been a valuable player … you could say he is a star. But his star power isn’t enough for the Packers to bring him back.

So, where does that leave the team? Well, not with much experience, that’s for sure. James Starks was a stud during the Packers’ Super Bowl run in 2010, but was injured again last year and hasn’t played an entire season yet. Alex Green, the team’s high draft choice last year is also coming off a knee injury and is yet to be seasoned. Brandon Saine showed some good hands and burst as a rookie last season and the team is most likely looking toward him to offer a third down alternative in 2012. Even fullback John Kuhn has been utilized as a running back in the past – he took over in the backfield in 2010 when Grant went down for the year with an injury and Brandon Jackson did nothing for the team.

Throw in these free agent signings: Duane Bennett from Minnesota, Marc Tyler from the University of Southern California, and Nicholas Cooper from Winston-Salem State, and one can see that the Packers have plenty of bodies, but very little experience.

Consider also that the Packers are a pass-first offense and one can see why Coach Mike McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson are satisfied with what they have in-house and are not concerned with letting Grant walk.

The main concern for Packers fans, of course, is that Grant is poised to sign with the Detroit Lions. Many say let them have him and his veteran salary. But in the backs of everyone’s minds is the notion that Grant would come back to haunt the team. McCarthy and Thompson don’t seem to be concerned about that.

Would the Packers look for another veteran to sign should Grant move on? I doubt it. With the team’s philosophy of drafting and developing, it’s highly unlikely … there are plenty of horses in the stable to develop. This could be a breakout year for Starks and if Green comes back healthy he could add the potential for a one-two punch the Packers would need. Throw in the pass catching skills that Saine showed out of the backfield last season and the team could be OK at the position.

However, it’s a big “if.” Everyone has to stay healthy for it to come together.

If they don’t, people will point to the neglect of Grant as a mistake. If they do, everyone will ask, “Ryan who …?”

Here are Ryan Grant’s career statistics with the Packers:


 

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Topics: Alex Green, Brandon Saine, Detroit Lions, Duane Bennett, Green Bay Packers, James Starks, John Kuhn, Marc Tyler, Mike McCarthy, New York Giants, NFL Divisional Playoff Game, Nicholas Cooper, Ryan Grant, Super Bowl, Ted Thompson, University Of Minnesota, University Of Southern California, Winston-Salem State

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