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Desperate Times for Green Bay's Run Game
By Grant Evan Posted in NFL on October 20, 2016 0 Comments
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Recently, Green Bay’s backup running back James Starks was revealed to have a knee injury that would require surgery. The aging back was taken out of the game against Dallas where starter Eddie Lacy seemed to be the only shining ray of hope in an otherwise slumping Packer offense. Lacy was hurdling over human beings, making defends miss, and picked up 65 yards on 17 carries. Not a bad showing and certainly one that the Pack could build around.

Until Lacy got put on injured reserve this morning.

Lacy, who was already nursing an ankle injury he sustained facing the Giants in Week 5, is now out indefinitely for the Packers. The only two running backs the team had are now out of the game for some time.

This is a good lesson in not having a player play through injury.

Now, who are the Packers going to be trotting out to face their oldest rivals tonight? Wide receiver Ty Montgomery and a player who the team literally just traded for two days ago, Knile Davis. Montgomery occupies that “WR4-7” camp on the Packers roster with the likes of Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis, and rookie Trevor Davis. Montgomery has seen some running game action, but is purely a speed back. He doesn’t carry the dump truck aggression that Lacy has become known for. Davis is much the same way, seeing success with his high speed and less with his hit absorption.

This isn’t to say that Davis isn’t a good signing. Davis has made some magical things happen during his three-year career in Kansas City. But there is a very good reason he wasn’t the featured back in Andy Reid’s offense. When Jamaal Charles went down with an injury last season, you’ll notice the team didn’t had the reigns over to their 2013 3rd round draft pick. That instead went to Charcandrick West. In fact, you only really heard Knile’s name if you were paying attention to the opening play of the Chiefs/Texans game in last year’s playoffs (Davis returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown). So Davis has some moves if he has open field to work with, but don’t expect to mow any defenders over or break any ankles.

Also consider that Davis isn’t being named the starting back. Part of that will no doubt have to do with having two days to learn the playbook, but speedy receivers Montgomery and Randall Cobb will most likely be given handoffs during the Chicago game. Leading up to this game, Montgomery has been given the ball as a rusher 11 times in his career for a grand total of 20 yards with only 6 of those yards coming this year. Now yes, that is because Ty is much further down the running back pool, sitting behind Lacy, Starks, FB Ripkowski, and Cobb but do consider that this is who McCarthy is considering the go-to guy sans Lacy and Starks. 

The other receiver-turned-running-back to look for is Randall Cobb, as I mentioned. Cobb has fared a little better than Montgomery, having picked a whopping TWELVE yards. At least with Cobb’s total yardage you can say he cumulatively gained a first down. However, don’t expect to see Cobb in much of a rushing roll since he’ll need to be playing his assigned position all night against Chicago.

But neither of THESE backs are starting. At the time of my writing this, the Packers have announced that Don Jackson, an undrafted running back from Nevada, has been promoted from the practice squad is the presumed starter for tonight’s affair. The rookie was reported to be receiving 1st team reps as early as…yesterday…and is the presumed starter tonight. I’d give you some stats on him, but as I said, he’s an undrafted rookie. This will be his first pro game. All we know about him is what the Green Bay camp has told us and, surprise, his identifier is speed. Three speedsters, no truckers. So even though they have a receiver with some mild running experience and a three-year rusher with some pretty impressive highlights under his belt – Don Jackson is being peddled as the starter. This three headed running back pen is less of a Cerberus and more like this guy from Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Green Bay has had major passing struggles. Aaron Rodgers currently boasts the lowest accuracy % among starting quarterbacks, he’s missing a dependable tight end, and his star receiver Jordy Nelson seems to be dropping the ball on hits quite a bit. Nelson seems to not fully be used to his body after his season ending injury last year. He does lead the team in TD receptions, however, but he is not pulling the over the shoulder drops in the bucket that him and Rodgers made to look so easy a mere two years ago. Cobb has had a nasty case of the drops as well, but none of these things change the fact that Rodgers has been overthrowing, underthrowing, and completely missing his receivers all season. And in spite of all that, the Packers have managed to pull out three wins. BUT those wins were Against the Jaguars, Lions, and Giants. None of whom currently have an over .500 record. Their two losses? Against the 5-0 Vikings and the 5-1 Cowboys. Against a quality opponent, the Packers struggles become extremely highlighted.

So why discuss the passing game in a running backs article? Because the simple fact of the matter is Green Bay doesn’t have a great rushing attack tonight. This is a major problem, as a key reason the 2014 Packers offense was able to slay so often was because of a great running game in Lacy. It’s a tried and true strategy that you’ve no doubt from commentators, Madden Games, and players: the run opens up the pass. And with Green Bay’s GOOD backs barely being used up to this point, what makes you think they’re going to suddenly go gung ho on the run with a fifth-string receiver and a third-string back who’s been on the team for less time than Aron Ralston was trapped under that rock. Green Bay is going air bound. 

Now, this could be terrible or great for Green Bay’s confidence. For as many problems as Green Bay has, they’re going up against a Bears team that has five injured cornerbacks. Safeties and practice squad guys will be placed on covering these receiver, which could allow for some solid separation for the Packers receivers. A solid game for this offense could be the fire that gets the team going heading into their next stretch of road games. The potential downside, as is well documented, is the accuracy issues of Aaron Rodgers and to a lesser extent, the conservative play calling of Mike McCarthy.

Be forewarned, Packers faithful. This is going to be a make or break game for the Packers. Make allows them to throw the ball effectively, make catches, and burn a crippled defense. Using that confidence, they analyze what kind of throws worked and plan accordingly to help Rodgers as much as they can. If they break against the Bears and allow Brian “third team in three years” Hoyer to beat them on defense while also continuing to miss easy catches, then Green Bay needs to hunker down and admit that they have a problem and address it head on.

There should be no real reason for the Green Bay Packers to lose to a much more crippled Bears during a prime time matchup in Lambeau to lose this game. A win won’t change much. A loss would speak volumes. 

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