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Packers to keep run game, seek help for Grant

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by tromadz, Feb 25, 2008.

  1. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    Packers to keep run game, seek help for Grant

    By Pete Dougherty
    pdougher@greenbaypressgazette.com

    INDIANAPOLIS – Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy has no plans to de-emphasize his zone-run scheme in favor of a more power-oriented rushing attack for the cold climate of Wisconsin.

    McCarthy brought the zone scheme as part of his version of the West Coast offense when General Manager Ted Thompson hired him in 2006. It was a significant departure from the more power-oriented run games of previous coaches Mike Sherman, Ray Rhodes and Mike Holmgren.

    Ryan Grant showed in the second half of last season that a good running back is more important than any particular running scheme, but the Packers still had crucial times when they couldn’t run the ball well enough, including short-yardage situations and most notably in the NFC championship loss to the New York Giants.

    In arctic-like weather at Lambeau Field, a decent running game might have gotten the Packers to the Super Bowl, but Grant gained only 29 yards on 13 carries that day, whereas Giants running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for 130 yards on 37 carries, which was just good enough to control the ball in the bitter cold.

    Nevertheless, with most of the Packers’ self-scouting from last season finished, McCarthy said he has no plans to de-emphasize the zone scheme, in which there’s an emphasis of quickness over bulk in offensive linemen, and blocks mostly are straight ahead with minimal pulling of guard and tackles.

    “Yes, we’re staying with the zone-run scheme,” McCarthy said at the NFL scouting combine last week. “We do run aspects of power schemes that are adjustments to our zone schemes, so that’s why I don’t think that’s a valid criticism, (that) because we play in cold weather we’re running the wrong kind of run-game offense.”

    Though McCarthy’s run game is based on the unique brand of the zone scheme devised by former Kansas City, Denver and Atlanta offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, McCarthy says his version differs because it’s based more on inside runs than the outside runs favored by Gibbs.

    Either way, both schemes emphasize the same kind of blockers, and McCarthy said he wants to stay with the the quickness-oriented linemen.

    One difficulty the Packers have had in their run game is finding a consistent guard tandem since parting ways with Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera, but it doesn’t look like they’re ready to make any major changes there after spending resources and time the last couple of years to put together a stable of young guards.

    Jason Spitz has gone the furthest toward solidifying his starting job after holding that role in his first two years in the league, but Daryn Colledge has been far more inconsistent over that same time at left guard.

    They will compete with at least three other young guards for the starting jobs in 2008.

    Second-year pro Allen Barbre probably is the most physically talented of the group, and the Packers expect him to take a big jump and push hard for a starting role. Fourth-year pro Junius Coston and perhaps second-year pro Tony Palmer also will compete for the jobs. Palmer is the closest thing to a road grader of that group, but the others fit the quicker, more athletic mold that the zone scheme requires.

    “I like the athletic linemen, it gives you more flexibility to do the things I like to do,” McCarthy said. “I like moving the quarterback, I maybe don’t do it as much (as preferred). I also think they’re better pass protectors, and we’ve been very effective throwing the football.”

    Still, that group of young linemen will have to make significant strides in the offseason to give the Packers a more consistent running game that could help get them over the hump and into the Super Bowl.

    Grant did wonders for the run game. His ability to break off long runs sparked the offense several times but it also occasionally masked the team’s inability to run the ball when conditions or down-and-distance demanded it.

    For instance, in their other bitter-cold game last season, a telling loss at Chicago, the Packers gained 125 yards on 21 carries, but 60 of those came on one run, a touchdown by Grant. They gained only 65 yards on their other 20 carries (3.2 yards a carry), which wasn’t much better than Grant’s 2.2-yard average against the Giants in the NFC championship game.

    Perhaps more telling, the Packers ranked last in the NFL in converting on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 combined.

    But McCarthy insists the zone scheme lends itself to consistency that will come as the offensive line improves.

    “That’s the whole theory of the thing, it keeps you out of negative runs,” he said. “Just in a general sense, when you get into patterned schemes you’re doing so much down blocking, there’s more one-on-one blocking, where in the zone scheme if they don’t make you (block one-on-one) you’re able to double team and get up on the second level (i.e., linebackers), you don’t have as much penetration, you’re not as vulnerable to negative runs. That’s the basic theory the zone scheme.”

    So with the zone scheme, McCarthy will enter 2008 knowing the Packers have one halfback who functions well in the zone scheme in Grant, who runs with surprising power and excellent instincts for the critical quick cutbacks the zone blocking affords.

    In the six games before Grant became the Packers’ primary halfback, they averaged 65.7 yards rushing a game and 3.3 yards a carry. In the 12 games thereafter, playoffs included, they averaged 111.8 yards rushing per game and 4.5 yards a carry.

    It’s still a wonder that a player acquired from the New York Giants for a sixth-round pick just before the start of the season could become such a key player.

    “I’ve got to be careful on that one because I’ll get myself in trouble,’ said Kevin Gilbride, the Giants’ offensive coordinator, when asked whether he could have foreseen Grant becoming so productive.

    “I thought he was a hell of a football player. Now, did I anticipate him being this force that he was? I didn’t know that. But we knew we let go of a good football player, the coaches, so we were certainly sorry to see him go.”

    With all Grant gave them, though, the Packers still seem likely to draft a halfback in attempt to find a second quality runner to pair with him.

    Though McCarthy talked last week about the increased competition at the position with Brandon Jackson entering his second season and DeShawn Wynn having made gains in the weight room since going on injured reserve halfway through last season, neither looks like an every-down type back who could push Grant for the starting job or provide anything close to what Grant does if he gets hurt.

    Jackson didn’t show the explosiveness last season that he did in college at Nebraska, though he catches the ball easily and has the makings of a third-down back.

    There still are major questions about whether Wynn will make it in the NFL, because he still has miles to go to show he’s dependable and committed to football enough to play through the ailments that go with playing halfback in the NFL.

    Even after saying he feels much better about the running back position now than at this time last year, McCarthy suggested the Packers could draft a running back with any pick.

    “As far as taking another one in the draft, if he’s the guy up on the board, I’m sure we have no problem drafting him,” he said.

    There probably are four first-round prospects at halfback, and all appear likely to be gone by the Packers’ pick at No. 30.

    Arkansas’ Darren McFadden probably will be a top-10 pick, maybe even top five. Illinois’ Rashard Mendenhall is looking more and more like a top-20 pick, and Oregon’s Jonathan Stewart is a power back who could go in the top 20 or 25 as well. Arkansas’ Felix Jones was McFadden’s explosive backup and ranks as the second-best back on at least one team’s draft board, though his size (just 200 pounds) could drop him lower in the first round.

    Most of the possible second-rounders are smaller backs such as Texas’ Jamaal Charles (6-foot-1, 200), East Carolina’s fast Chris Johnson (5-10½, 195), West Virginia’s Steve Slaton (5-10, 195) and Rutgers’ Ray Rice (5-9, 195). Central Florida’s Kevin Smith (6-1, 212) is the only second-round back who’s physically built to handle the every-down pounding.
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  2. cheesey

    cheesey Cheesehead

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    I can't help but wonder if Grant is dissapointed that he came to the Packers, just missing out on a Super Bowl ring he would have had, had he stayed with the Giants.
     
  3. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

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    I would think that almost taking your team to the Super Bowl as the starting RB, knowing that next year we can really make a push for the SB, has to feel roughly as good as picking up a SB ring as the #4 RB who never plays, ever. If it was me, while it would be cool to have a SB ring, the sense of accomplishment from GB would have to be much higher than the sense of accomplishment if he still played for the Giants.
     
  4. Krazygangsta

    Krazygangsta Cheesehead

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    I don't know about you ... but I would rather be a starting RB even losing it meant leading my team to the nfc champions and losing and just knowing that next year I can be the difference maker and actually win the ring myself ... then winning it when im the 4th string rb
     
  5. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

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    Exactly!
     
  6. Bobby Roberts

    Bobby Roberts Cheesehead

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    Well the Giants were looking at cutting Grant before the season. TT offered a trade so he wouldn't have to compete with other teams to sign Grant.

    That being said, I think the Giants were unhappy to have let Grant go after he started showing his potential in GB. They do have some very good RBs though, so that definitely helps the situation. The bad part is that they didn't get much for trading him, although it's definitely better than getting nothing for cutting him.
     
  7. Zombieslayer

    Zombieslayer Cheesehead

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    Nah, he would have gotten a ring from the bench.

    I think it would have been a lot more fun winning that Seattle game and almost making it to the SB because he was a regular contributor instead of a bench warmer.

    This year, he'll get 100+ yards and a TD when we win the SB. Now, that would be really fun. :cool:
     
  8. PackOne

    PackOne Cheesehead

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    I read alot today about the Cows wanting to trade away Marion Barber and picks to move up for McFadden. If Barber goes to free agency, the Pack should hit up that Minnesota kid like gang busters.
     
  9. Kyle

    Kyle Cheesehead

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    Couldn't agree with you more PackOne!! Dude's a beast!
     
  10. DoddPower

    DoddPower Nick Perry is watching you, NFL QB's!

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    He is no doubt a beast. If I was Dallas I would hold on to him.
     
  11. cheesey

    cheesey Cheesehead

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    I can't see Barber being let go by the Cows.
    I think that won't happen.
     
  12. Danreb

    Danreb Cheesehead

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    I didn't know backups were granted Super Bowl rings.
     
  13. Raider Pride

    Raider Pride Cheesehead

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    Every one on the roster gets a ring.

    Not sure about the NFL. But in the NHL (Unless it has changed) every one in the team photo gets a ring that is still part of the team at the end of the season.... Even the equipment manager who washes uniforms late at night.
     
  14. Raider Pride

    Raider Pride Cheesehead

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    Cheesey... Good question. I can see where you are going with this. Let me throw this question back at you.

    If you were Grant, made it off the practice roster, had one perhaps to touches in the Superbowl game for the Giants. Would you rather have a $18,000 ring.... or the financial win fall Grant is set up for now, after last season?

    Oh... Mrs Cheesey should have a say in this as well, after all it is about the future financial state of your household. The Ring? Or the opportunity?

    Choose wise Cheesey... You are Grant for the moment.

    R.P.
     
  15. Tiger

    Tiger Cheesehead

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    even players on practice squads get Rings, theres a guy on the Giants squad, a TE, who has won three Super Bowls despite not even have suited up. I read the article a while ago but cant find it now.
     
  16. Apocalypse

    Apocalypse Cheesehead

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    He wouldn't even have made their team.
     

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