It’s hard to knock the reigning Super Bowl champions, but no matter how good a team is it can always improve. This includes the Green Bay Packers. But while running back is a position they could get better at, it shouldn’t really be considered a major concern.
The club did address the situation somewhat in the recent draft, by taking Alex Green out of Hawaii with the 96th pick overall. As for their present running backs, Ryan Grant is set to return from injury and James Starks could be ready to breakout this season. There are question marks about Dimitri Nance and Brandon Jackson though.
With Grant and Starks starting in the backfield the team should be strong enough at running back. You can depend on Grant to carry the load. He ran for 1,200 yards in 2008 and 2009, but suffered an injury last year. Starks proved himself during last year’s playoffs as he showed he’s got pretty good vision and can gain a few yards after contact. He’s got the potential to be the team’s number one running back pretty soon.
If Jackson re-signs he’ll also chip in. He’s a good pass blocker and receiver, and makes a good third- down back. He’s also capable at making big gains screen plays and draws. John Kuhn is steady as a blocker and short-yardage guy and had an 80% success rate for third-down carries.
Looking at the group of running backs overall, their blocking skills are about average though. Quinn Johnson looks like he could be one of the team’s best blockers, but he’s not there yet. The blocking could be better on plays run out of T and wishbone formations.
Each running back on the Packers seems to specialize in one area, but the squad doesn’t have a complete running back. For instance, Grant is basically a pure runner with decent catching skills, but his blocking needs work. Starks might be the best of the bunch, but there have been question marks about his work ethic in practice, past injuries, and blocking skills.
The current CBA situation in the NFL is also muddying the picture as the Packers aren’t really sure who’s going to be back and who’s not. Jackson and Kuhn were offered tenders before the lockout mess. Kuhn said he wants to return, but Jackson isn’t sure. Korey Hall wasn’t offered anything and he might not be back.
The worst-case scenario sees the Packers losing all three of them. If they do, draftee Green will be depended on and a free agent could be signed. If Kuhn and Jackson stay, the team looks to be strong enough without the need for any more running backs.
Of course, the team will be relying on Grant to deliver the way he did before his injury while Johnson needs to reach his full potential and Starks will need to keep up his play for an entire season. Nance could win a roster spot if the Packers lose anybody, but he’ll be up against the rookie Green. Nance needs to improve his catching and blocking though.
It looks like the Packers should be able to be pretty successful with their group of running backs again this season, but they’re sure to upgrade if the chance comes along.