Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How Will The Grant Injury Change The Packers Offense?


Ryan Grant's ankle went from "week to week" to "next year" in a few short days, and suddenly, the thin running back situation for the Packers got positively waiflike.

Brandon Jackson, the man who has grown from oft-injured and inconsistent to a reliable third-down option back, suddenly is not only given the starting halfback job, but because the Packers only kept two running backs, he quite literally has no competition...or backup.

Many of us, myself included, are intrigued to see what is going to come out of the Jackson Era, but don't think for a second that the "oft-injured" nervousness isn't going to be haunting Packer fans every time he takes an awkward tackle.  With Kregg Lumpkin in sunny Florida, the options for the Packers would go from worrisome to desperate if Jackson ended up even on the sideline for an extended period of time.

The most important thing is to figure out how having B-Jax in the backfield is going to affect the Packers' offense and how defenses are going to go after him.  Jackson has done pretty well the past season or so as a receiver out of the backfield, and did put up some yards in the game...however, he spent an awful lot of his runs going up the middle for no yards. 

If defenses watch that tape, knowing that Jackson isn't going to pound the ball inside, it give them more flexibility to use their defenders for other purposes:  extra rushers, extra defenders in the secondary, more defenders in the flat to watch for that check-down screen play to Jackson, which you have to think is going to become more of the bread-and-butter.

In some ways, it reminds you of the early running games of the 1990's, when guys like Edgar Bennett caught more screens for yardage than he actually ran on the ground.  It's effective, but having a legitimate threat on the ground is, quite simply, a prerequisite.

So, what's the other options?  John Kuhn?  Certainly has shown some good moves and power, and will definitely be called on to do more in the backfield.  You can't go into a game with just one active running back...and you have to give Jackson a break once in a while.

Suddenly, Quinn Johnson is looking to make the active roster next week...especially given the potential he has to open holes for running backs with his blocking.

Even more intriguing was the pickup of Dimitri Nance from the Falcons practice squad.  No, he wont' be active anytime soon, but his running style may prove to be a tremendous counter to what Jackson offers.  Nance is a wide body, straight line inside rusher than has enough moves to plunge through the line.  Now, you combine that kind of runner with Quinn Johnson, and you make a lot of those "extra defenders" come back to the line of scrimmage.

It's not rocket science to see that Aaron Rodgers is going to pick up the slack through the air...and it's not like the Packers have many problems with that.  But, that running back has to be productive, not flashy.  The Bills game will be a great start for a young back that has a lot of  people backing him.  And praying.

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