I will admit, I am no Einstein when it comes to the minute intricacies of football. When ESPN puts on a slick 3D graphic illustrating gap control along a defensive front, I am still happily learning along with most others watching it.
But, in the larger picture, I do know one thing: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And if it is broke, git 'r done.
Which is why I propose one change that I believe could solve many of our problems on offense: start Quinn Johnson at fullback.
Now, is one rookie player capable of creating a sea change along a veteran unit? Probably not, but it can go a long way in getting the dominoes moving in the right direction. And unfortunately, dominoes are exactly what our offensive line and running backs look like unless we're protecting a huge lead in the fourth quarter.
Let me explain my thought process. When a machine is broken, there are a couple ways to remedy the situation: replace the defective parts, or change how the machine works.
In the Packers' case, our replacement parts are pretty limited.
Along the offensive line, the depth is dreadfully thin. While I'm as excited as anyone about the potential of T.J. Lang, and am not excited about seeing his development in the hands of James Campen. Furthermore, he will be facing off against the Vikings' defensive front in two weeks, not the Lions, and that will be a whole new ball of wax for the youngster.
And, let's face it. This has been a line built through the draft for the zone blocking system. Most of the personnel are interchangeable, but not necessarily any better at any other position along the line. When you vow to "develop with within", and it doesn't happen, your options are pretty shaky.
So, you have to figure what we have is all we have to work with, and re-signing creaky old Mark Tauscher is not going to improve that situation, regardless of how much we want it to.
Looking back at the running back situation, we are very much in the same boat. It's pretty clear that Ryan Grant has lost something from his 2007 season: he has little explosiveness or outside run capability. Combining that with the shaky run blocking, and you can understand why Grant's only yards of note come when the game is far out of reach.
Playing behind him is nicked-up Brandon Jackson and the pedestrian DeShawn Wynn. While many are anxious for Jackson to get some playing time, you have to believe the coaching staff knows more than we do, otherwise they would not have gone out to pick up Ahman Green this week.
And, like Tauscher, expecting Green to make any significant improvement at his age and injury history is very optimistic, indeed.
So, when it comes to replacement parts availble to us, we're hurting at both OL and RB. But, with the absence of Korey Hall last week, Quinn Johnson got his chance to show what he could do in a game. He didn't disappoint.
Watching from the stands and keying in on him, I noticed twice that he completely leveled a linebacker. Now, linebackers are known for giving pain and dishing out punishment, not usually the other way around. But, I saw one get knocked backwards nearly three yards on one block from Johnson. And Johnson opened the door for Grant on his 22-yard scamper...and if you didn't notice, Johnson was still sprinting up the field, right on Grant's heels until he was finally tackled.
QJ has the potential...the potential, mind you...to add a new dimension to this offensive attack. Think about the problems we presently have: zone blocking offensive line can't open holes for running game, defenses easily stymie running game, and then are able to put more and more pressure on the pass blocking.
By adding a fullback that can seriously flatten a linebacker, the Packers gain that much of an edge in their rushing attack, as well as making those linebackers think twice about overrunning into him. If Grant is able to rush for three yards on each carry instead of getting hit at the line of scrimmage, it makes a huge difference in how defenses will have to play the run and the pass.
Furthermore, McCarthy, who was once known for making adjustments to accommodate the weaknesses of his offensive line, could start working to the strength of his talent. Josh Sitton and TJ Lang were drafted with the tag "nasty streak", not "ideal for the ZBS". Same for Breno Guacamole. How about you let them start doing some straight-ahead blocking and see what a power lead rusher can do for you?
Incidentally, I've never been a fan of the ZBS, and frankly, I think it is a bit of a coward's scheme. After watching Erik Williams cut-block John Jurkovic out of a playoff game, I don't have a lot of respect for a scheme that utilizes that kind of cheap block on every run play.
Hey, I realize that Quinn Johnson is a rookie. I also realize, right now, he's a one-dimensional player. He's not going to be likely to fill the role of a threat out of the backfield, in contrast to the voices of many of us in the Blogosphere clamoring for more screens and short passes.
And, it puts the Packers at a bit of a disadvantage, having Johnson in on run plays and Kuhn in on passing plays. Certainly, I've always been an advocate for keeping the opposition guessing by having as many options as possible, both offensively and defensively.
But, while all that flea-flicking, misdirection stuff is great, when you are locked in battle in a playoff game in mid-January, protecting a narrow lead in the fourth quarter in sub-zero temperatures, the game of football comes down to mano-y-mano, not finesse. You are running directly at them and daring them to stop you. Playing against the best of the best in the playoffs isn't the time to run a flea-flicker. It's time to preserve the win by keeping the ball on the ground and grinding out yards, killing the clock.
Bringing in Quinn Johnson might be the key that saves the season: not only might it be one of our only actual upgrades, his style of play may change the whole approach to the running game.
It's worth a shot. With Aaron Rodgers on pace for 80 sacks and the running game continuing to be a non-threat, it's time to do something before we are starting Matt Flynn at quarterback. If that happens, it'll be too late.