Packers Offseason Moves Place Emphasis on Running Game


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With the draft now in the rear view mirror, the offseason moves of the Green Bay Packers provide a peek into the offices at 1265 Lombardi avenue. A bit of insight into how Ted Thompson views the needs of the team and the direction Coach Mike McCarthy is steering the Packers can be understood by looking at the moves made over the past few months.

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One thing that is certain, the run game is thought to be relevant for the Packers moving forward. Over the past few seasons the Packers have placed very little emphasis on rushing the ball. This is of course Aaron Rodgers’ team and because of that and the stable of receivers at his dispense; it was a pass-happy offense.

The Packers passed 56 percent of the time in 2012. With that, Aaron Rodgers was sacked 51 times. On one hand the common assumption would be that the Packers need to improve the offensive line play. They do, but the real problem here was opposing defensive coordinators scoffed at the Packers feeble attempt at a running game.

Over the course of the season the Packers accumulated 1,702 yards on the ground spread out amongst nine different ball carriers. Aaron Rodgers accounted for 259 of those yards and Randall Cobb 132. The leading rusher, Alex Green, rushed for just 464 yards with 3.4 yard average and no touchdowns. Having no regard for the Packers ability to rush the ball, defenses came after Rodgers fast and furious. The common analogy was defensive linemen were just pinning their ears back and coming for Rodgers.

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With the additions of running backs Eddie Lacy from Alabama and Johnathan Franklin from UCLA the Packers add young talent, but also an interesting mix of running styles. Lacy is a power back and has been compared to Frank Gore. Franklin has a little wiggle and speed and draws comparisons to Shane Vereen of New England, and others liken him to Maurice Jones-Drew of Jacksonville.

With the addition of Lacy and Franklin at least two of the Packers six running backs from last year will not be returning for 2012. Ryan Grant is already a free-agent; therefore the favorite to be the odd man out is Cedric Benson.  However, Alex Green, DuJuan Harris, James Starks, and even the legendary John Kuhn are all equally sharing the hot seat, as it would be unusual for the Packers to carry six running backs on the active roster.

It is apparent with the addition of Lacy and Franklin that the Packers want to earn some respect on the ground rushing the ball. It will create what Thompson and McCarthy are always reciting, competition. And the competition should be fierce.

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All of the returning Packers running backs have at one point in time or another shined or shown promise. James Starks has been hampered by injury, but has demonstrated that when healthy he can be a threat.

DuJuan Harris in a small sample size was impressive in the latter portion of last season. Alex Green has potential and was probably called upon last year to do too much. Third down back might be the best role for him.

The running game opens up the passing game. Between the returning backs and the additions through the draft the Packers on paper look to be improving in the ground game.

A rotation of Lacy, Franklin, Harris and Starks offers a variety of different looks and will be interesting to see the 2013 backfield develop.