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Run to Daylight: Return to Glory…

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by Bruce, Feb 18, 2007.

  1. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Run to Daylight: Return to Glory…
    RB’s: Part VIII of Positional Analysis

    Mike McCarthy declared immediately upon his hire that as Head Coach (and player caller) the Packers would run the ball. He reaffirmed that commitment by hiring Jeff Jagodzinski (an offensive line coach) as his offensive coordinator to install the zone blocking scheme. Jagz has moved on to Boston College, but MM promised he did not take the team’s desire to rush the football with him.

    It did not take too much time into his debut season before McCarthy was forced to face the reality that comes with having two to three rookie starting offensive linemen. Circumstances dictated putting the ball in the hands of his future Hall of Fame QB was his best chance at victory – so he did, early and often.

    But with some maturation and perhaps changes in the offensive line, one should look for McCarthy to try and put the rush back in the running game in ‘07’.

    So when looking at running backs it makes sense to look first to the guys who most often carry the rock – half backs, and where better to start than with their best HB Ahman (Batman) Green.

    [​IMG]

    Ahman Green is a great running back. In fact, with his 8,491 yards Green is less than one game away from breaking Jimmy Taylor’s record as the Packers all-time leading rusher. Yet, just about every off season “rumors of his (Ahman’s) demise have been greatly exaggerated...”

    Once again last season, Green, coming back from a torn tendon, quietly went about leading the Packers and posting great numbers without the fanfare one might expect to accompany such a productive player.

    Like last off season, Green is once again a free agent and is faced with two choices:

    One choice would be to test the free agency market, where unlike last season, a healthy Ahman Green is likely to draw plenty of interest in a year, and where GM’s have more mad money than they know what to do with. Add to that the ‘07’ selection of free agent running backs is not exactly awe inspiring.

    The other choice for Batman is to follow his heart and work out a deal with Ted Thompson, allowing him to finish his career wearing the Green and Gold he has come to love. After all, Green is less than a full game away from becoming GB’s all-time leading rusher, he loves playing for the Packers and many fans love Green and want to see him claim the mantle of all-time great leading rusher.

    Days short of being 30 (while writing this), Green is not the running back he was a few years ago, but for the last two seasons he has also been running behind a line and FB that are nothing like he had just two seasons before. Don’t believe for a second that these changes are not huge factors in any noted decline. However, do not expect to hear any complaints from Green.

    As RB Coach Edgar Bennett says, "He's playing with a chip on his shoulder; he's playing with something to prove. Ahman, he's a competitor. He wants to be the best, he wants to succeed, he wants what's best for the Green Bay Packers. I love that about him. When he steps on the field, there's not a doubt in my mind he's going to give us everything he has."

    In a bounce back season after tearing a tendon in ‘05’ Ahman put up 1,059 yards in just 14 games in ‘06’ while averaging a hair short of 4 yards per carry. He is still an attacking down hill runner who gives as much as he receives in his battles with defenders. His health (chronic asthma) makes him an ideal one in a one/two punch running combination where he can be limited to somewhere between 55% and 70% of the carries.

    On the plus side:

    Green still can get up and go. Running behind a green largely ineffective line he still put up five 100 plus yard games. At a well cut 6’ 218 lbs, Ahman is an explosive runner, who has that sudden burst that punishes tacklers’ by exploding into them right before impact – often turning the tables on defenders trying to deliver a big hit. He does not shy away from contact, but has a nice spin move and the speed to make defenders miss if they are too cautious in attacking him. Green’s 70 yard run against Miami demonstrated his still excellent speed and 2nd gear has not abandoned him. And his 14 carries for 104 yards and a 7.2 average were the only bright spots in the NYJ massacre, as were the 110 against the hailed Bears in the season opener.

    Green is still dangerous in the open field, which is one of the reasons Packer offenses always tried to get him the ball in check downs so frequently. When the timing is together, he is one of the best screen threats in the league still to this day.

    On the down side:

    Ahman is not getting any younger, he will be 30 during the 2007 season.

    He is no longer the full-time dominate runner that some would like to see wearing Green and Gold heading into the 2007 season

    For some reason, Green’s usually reliable hands took a vacation in ‘06’ as he posted a career worst 12.7% drop rate. Mike McCarthy claims that this is something easily fixed, and is partially attributable to increased blocking responsibility in the MAX protection he (MM) was forced to call this past season. One might hypothesis that Green’s rigorous tendon rehab kept him from working as much as he should in and on receiving drills.

    While not as durable as he once was, Green did silence critics with his solid production last season coming back from what most thought was a career ending injury.

    Other assets that Green brings to the table are a tireless work ethic and a strong leadership by example veteran who can serve as a mentor to any heir who is brought in to eventually replace him.

    The coaching staff claims to really want him back and Ted has been very careful to not insult or burn any bridges with this valuable veteran. Decisions around Green will dictate so many things in the draft and free agency. I am sure that Thompson and Green would like to get to a decision sooner than later. We will all have to stay tuned…
    ===============================================================

    Vernand Morency has the talent to be a player in this league. The only real question is does he have the talent to be a feature back or is he a career #2 or #3 guy who provides solid depth and good rotation?

    [​IMG]

    Like Green, Vernand has burst that catches defenders flat footed at times and nice moves in the open field that leave defenders grasping at air when it works. He is quicker than he is fast, with good lateral and veer quickness, and he can change direction in stride. He has vision that helps him in traffic, which is essential for fitting into the Packers running game.

    At 5’9” (or 5’10” if you want to be generous) and 212 pounds he runs well downhill, squaring his shoulders and hitting holes and cuts quickly with good pad level – which makes him a good fit for a zone blocking scheme. He is strong enough to run through arm and sloppy tackling techniques, but is not a power back that will get you the consistent tough yard. He is a fighter though, and surprises people once he gets a full head of steam going.

    Morency is a decent enough blocker for a HB, not a striker but he will face up particularly when blocking on the edge. He does show a willingness to do the job and with experience should be able to handle blitz pickups well.

    Vernand has the kind of hands that could be developed and with work Verand could be developed into a very good 3rd down back. His running style would fit into a multitude of screens and flairs and his quickness is ideal for draws.

    Morency’s downside at this point include:

    Vernand can still regress to sloppy technique, which sometimes feeds an old tendency to put the ball on the turf when reckless. Some question his durability to be a primary runner, seeing him instead as a rotation back or a potential 3rd down specialist. Morency has had some character issues that have followed him and is a guy who warrants keeping a close eye on and this must be factored into any long term decision making on his future with a team. On the other hand, reports are he was a boy scout with the Packers last season.
    ===============================================================

    Noah Herron is a hard working kid who gets the most out of his limited athletic ability. Noah out-hustled and outworked his competition to steal a roster spot when Davenport was released. You can bet NO ONE will outwork him this off season.

    [​IMG]

    He is assignment sure, and runs, blocks and receives the football consistently, but certainly not flashy. He was the Packers primary third down back, but has to be considered a significant down grade from Tony Fisher – the player who held the position before him. Fisher was bigger, faster and more consistent, but Herron won the job when Tony moved on to St. Louis.

    Noah is the type of player who has a big heart and works his butt off – often the kind of guy that earns a living by standing out doing the dirty work on special teams. Herron is also the type of player many teams like to have in their back pockets for signing if their roster gets depleted by injuries However if he is making a roster out of training camp, it brings into question the talent base the team put up for him to compete with.
    ===============================================================

    Arliss Beach is an interesting story – one that many like to compare with Samdon Gado. There is a piece of misinformation frequently bandied about Arliss, stating that like Gado, he was never a starter in college. The truth is he was a starter who could never stay healthy – with fluke injury after fluke injury keeping him from ever putting his college game together.

    In fact, as a sophomore in his first start (against Florida) he scored all three TD in Kentucky’s near upset of the highly ranked SEC foe that afternoon.

    A most noteworthy thing about his college career is that Beach NEVER FUMBLED once in his 4 years at Kentucky, despite playing TB and being a kick return man for the Wildcats.

    Beach stood out in training camp with his quickness and pop in drills and scrimmages. And when given his first real opportunity Arliss exploded against the Atlanta Falcons for 50 yards on 9 carries, for a 5.5 average, while the rest of the running backs struggled to gain any yardage at all. Arliss is a tough versatile young player, who can block, receive and run with surprising suddenness.

    As former offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said about Beach, “the guy that really ran downhill was Beach. We’ve been impressed with him in practice. he needs to stay consistent. He may have a real chance…”

    Head Coach Mike McCarthy said, “I’m in favor of tough guys, and I think he’s a tough, physical football player. He put his foot down and ran with a lot of forward lean. I think he’s a young man with a bright future.

    Beach looked as though he was on this way to making the roster in ‘06’ when he suffered the dreaded high ankle sprain in the final preseason game against the Tennessee Titans. Instead he ended up riding the injured reserve list which may have been a blessing. With a full off season of work in Green Bay and a year under his belt learning the offense – maybe, just maybe Arliss will avoid injury and finally get his long awaited day at the Beach.
    ===============================================================

    P.J. Pope, a 5-9 220 lb 22 year old was snatched from da bear’s practice squad and put on the Packers’ roster last season. Say what you will about the Bears, but running backs is one thing they seem to have ample supply of, and Pope was good enough for them to want to retain him. P.J. has soft hands and is a tough runner.

    Popee put up big numbers as a rusher and receivers in his sophomore and junior seasons (all-conference) at Bowling Green where he is the only player in their history to rush for more than 3000 yards and accumulate more than 1,000 yards in receptions. He played big in Bowl games rushing for 157 and 2 TDs against Memphis and 214 yards vs. Western Michigan

    During the pre-season , Pope led the Bears in rushing with 153 yard and a touchdown and had 4 catches for 4.3 yards. It was enough to gain him a spot on their practice squad and they were not pleased to lose him to the Packers.
    ===============================================================
    The Fullbacks:
    Speaking of guys whose “reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated,” William Henderson has been slated to be replaced in each of the last three seasons. But like the energizer bunny Hendo just “keeps on running…” or more precisely keeps blocking...

    [​IMG]

    William Henderson is 36 years old, and once again he is slated for replacement. On the other side of the argument Henderson is under contract at the veterans minimum for ‘07’ and in recent days Head Coach Mike McCarthy has started to say he would like to see Henderson come back and give it another run.

    Shifting to this new zone blocking scheme, Henderson struggled mightily for the first half of the season, resulting in the Packers signing Brandon Miree to replace him. Just when it looked like it was over for the old work horse Miree went down to injury. Henderson reclaimed his job and while he rotated after Brandon’s return, he never surrendered the starting job back and made BIG improvements in the second half of the season.

    Never a runner, Henderson was once a great blow them up blocker and sure handed receiver out of the backfield. He now is steady but not great at both.

    2007 should make the 4th straight season the Packers look to bring in his replacement. I think it might be in his and the team’s best interest to hang them up and move on to his next career. However, if William gets the itch to come back for another run, I wouldn’t bet against him.
    ===============================================================

    Brandon Miree is the heir apparent starting fullback of the Green Bay Packers. He is not a blow them up blocker like Henderson once was, but he is a great athlete with speed and versatility that belies a man his size. Brandon ran a 4.42 40 on an indoor track and 4.58 outdoors and once put up a 10.6 in the 100 meter dash.

    [​IMG]

    Another thing Miree, a solid TB in college, does well that Henderson never could is run with the ball, something that McCarthy would like to do more with the FB in his version of WC offense.

    At 6 foot 240 lbs, Miree is a tough downhill runner who is strong enough to get that tough yard and with enough burst to run away from defenders if they hesitate. He has a well cut muscular frame with thick legs and broad shoulders and runs with a low pad level which is essential for success in the Pros. He came into the league with a reputation for holding on to the rock well despite being a runner who keeps his legs driving a guy who wants to fight for every extra inch possible. However, one of the reasons he transferred from Alabama to Pittsburgh is he struggled with fumbling early in his career with the Crimson Tide.

    Brandon also has soft hands and should be able to fill the job required of a WC FB in snaring his share of passes on check-downs, screens and passes to the flats. His speed should give the ability to do something with it once he catches it too.

    He played in a zone blocking scheme at Pittsburgh and was a solid, but not devastating blocker who can reach his target and engage well.

    Miree captured the attention of the Packer’s coaching staff immediately upon arriving in GB. he flat out beat Henderson out for the starting job. Before injuring his elbow he was getting all of the snaps and after returning to play hurt with a brace, Brandon still split the job down the Packers very productive stretch in December.
    ===============================================================

    Most have the Packers slated to take a RB in day one of the draft – and some rate this a very solid and deep draft for RBs. Some have speculated about rumors of Players who may become available through trade, but honestly any solid backs available in trade are likely to be very costly given the mediocre free agent class available.

    Look for Ted Thompson to make a move at RB, even if it is signing Ahman Green, who is rated the top FA running back on most boards, and to draft a player who will eventually be his replacement for the future. They are also likely to look for a big powerful blocking FB to rotate with Miree is Henderson retires, and maybe even if he does not.

    In GB, RB is a position with many possible scenarios. The problems with predicting which way this story will play out is the interdependence of each move in its unfolding. Look for the first move to happen pretty quickly in the next few weeks where the Green story will be the first move to reveal itself – and that will be just the start of what could be quite the off season ride.
     
  2. Zombieslayer

    Zombieslayer Cheesehead

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    Good post. I was excited seeing Beach play, so looking forward to seeing what he has to offer this upcoming year. I'm hoping Green will be back and produce another 1000+ yards.

    However, I'm also hoping that we develop his heir apparent and that person gets 500+ yards, and our RB team takes the pressure off of Favre. Our zone blocking scheme will be in year 2, and I want to see results now.
     
  3. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

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    great article. just like all the rest of them. i really appreciate how well formulated your capsules are on all of the players, not just the #1 guy. i would like to re-sign Green and draft a RB first round. I also feel pretty good about Miree and Morency. I don't know where Pope, Beach, and Herron will turn out to be, but let's hope it works out.
     
  4. slackerbacker

    slackerbacker Cheesehead

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    It would be nice to see Beech become a asset as a KR. Likewise, you have to wonder if Morency could help w/ this and or PR duties?

    In addition, all have better than avg. receiving skills and the speed to make something happen on the edge. Question is, why don't we see the screen pass as much as we use to and why not throw the ball in the flat more where these guys can use their speed?? Answer, once again inexperience of the OGs are holding the team back.

    IMO, Morency and Green should be used a lot more like B. Westbrooke than they have been in the past. One thing MM could do to add impact while waiting for another impact WR or TE.
     
  5. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    Thanks for the article, Bruce. I would hate to see Ahman Green leave, because he's been such a warrior for us. But if another team offers him a really big contract, it will be time to say goodbye. Ideally, the Packers can draft a good RB who can be our Joseph Addai/Lawrence Maroney so Ahman can be our Dominick Rhodes/Corey Dillon. That would leave Vernand Morency as a third down specialist-type back, and as you say, he seems well-suited for that role. One thing I don't like about Morency is his kick returns. He runs straight into the pile almost every time.

    If it wasn't for that 70 yard TD at Miami, I would think it was clearly time for the team to part ways with Ahman. But that one play showed that he can still hit the afterburners. The question is whether, given some opportunities, he can do it multiple times in a season.
     
  6. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Thanks Zombie, bozz, slacker, and Greg.

    It is surprising to get 1455 hits and only 4 responses.

    :feedback:
     
  7. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    wow thats a lot of views. Bruce, stop hitting refresh.

    tee hee.
     
  8. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    This has been the lamest day in a long time for this forum. Maybe it proves that the majority of posters have government jobs and do all their posting at work. Today is President's Day, after all.
     
  9. Since69

    Since69 Cheesehead

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    Excellent work as usual, Bruce! :thumbsup:

    Most of the mocks I've seen have us taking Marshawn Lynch at #16. I could live with that, but I'd rather go S or WR. What do you think of Lynch?
     
  10. paxvogel

    paxvogel Cheesehead

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    Our running backs are pretty unimpressive except for Green, cast offs from other teams. We need Lynch in the first round or Booker in round 2 or 3.
     
  11. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Hey, I really like Lynch and think he would be a great choice...

    ...BUT, consider the following:

    Priest Holmes was an undrafted free agent signing by the Baltimore Ravens in 1997. Baltimore made the tragic mistake of letting him become a cast off as he signed with the Chiefs and the rest is history.

    Remember there are as many 1st round RB busts (hailed as sure things like Lawrence Phillips Neb. (6th overall pick), Blair Thomas (2nd overall pick), Ki-Jana Carter, Curtis Enis (all from Penn State) as there are late round steals like Terrell Davis (196th pick overall) Jamal Anderson's (201st pick overall) Mike Bell (undrafted) -- these are just a few of many examples.

    Hell, Willie Parker did not even get on the field for Senior Day at North Carolina. Yet a Steeler scout remembered his high school career, you can bet that Pittsburgh has not regretted for a moment signing him after the draft and giving him a chance.

    What do Gates, now considered the best tight end in football, Kurt Warner, who merely became a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player and an MVP of the Super Bowl, Rod Smith, who's fourth on the career yards receiving list among active players all have in common???

    Answer: All were UNDRAFTED.

    Never forget: the art of scouting is a never-ending pursuit
     
  12. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

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    nice post Bruce.. :pat on the back smiley: i don't think there is one of those, but there ought to be, dammit.
     
  13. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    True enough, but it's a percentage game. And I think RB is the one position, more than any other, where success in college is most likely to lead to success in the pros. For every Antonio Gates, Kurt Warner, and Rod Smith there are hundreds of players who were undrafted and never amounted to anything. Good scouting helps, but mostly it takes a lot of luck to get a guy that good as an undrafted free agent or in the late rounds of the draft.

    I wouldn't mind if the Pack took Lynch in the first round, but if they can get an adequate RB later in the draft, that pick may be better spent on a safety or wide receiver.
     
  14. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Of course you are correct Greg, but there are plenty of examples of what I am talking about when I say you don't stop scouting for players after the top picks.

    Look at the last 5 Packer 1st round running back picks:

    Darrell Thompson 1990, Brent Fullwood 1987, Eddie Lee Ivery 1979, Barty Smith 1974, John Brockington 1971

    Only John Brockington was a success and even then for only (4 seasons) and Thompson and Smith were complete busts.

    Yet Levins was a a 5th round draft pick, Edgar Bennett was a late 4th round pick -- both produced as much and more than any one on the above list.

    Many gems are harvested by working hard in scouting and not stopping on the sometimes over-hyped guys listed as sure things at the top of many talking head boards.
     
  15. CaliforniaCheez

    CaliforniaCheez Cheesehead

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    Morency is not the answer to any question. There is a serious deficiency in fundamentals in Morency's play. Let me give 2 basic things in taking a hand off that anyone who played Pop Warner or Jr. High football will understand.

    1. The first week of play an RB is taught when he takes a handoff the arm on the side to the QB is the arm that is high. If you run right the left arm is up. If you run left the right arm is up. Up the middle the side where the QB is the arm is up. Basic fundamental football all should know.

    2. When taking a handoff, don't grab the ball. It is the QB's responsibility to put the ball into the RB's gut. Grabbing for the ball causes fumbles. Morency grabs the ball rather than have the QB deposit it.

    Look at film of Morency's fumbles. He does not know or practice simple fundamentals!!

    Footwork and blocking get too complex to get into here. Morency needs a lot of coaching to avoid his own mistakes. I saw things he did that should not be done by high school players and would get them yanked from a game.

    If I can see it in the game I know Edgar Bennett has seen it on film. I look for Morency to be #3 RB if he makes the team. If he starts playing well the credit should go to Edgar and not Morency.
     
  16. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    LoL, sarcasm at it's best!

    (I hope)
     
  17. porky88

    porky88 Cheesehead

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    Unfortunately that's how it goes for every position. The Draft is a hit and miss game. It comes down to how well your scouting department feels about the respective player. Looking at the Packers possibilities right now it's hard to go against a talent like Marshawn Lynch. I think he has top 10 talent but RB's are not as hot as a commodity as they once were with the recent flood of 1st round RB's in the past years. Lynch could very well fall to the Packers or he could very well go in the top 10 to a team like the Houston Texans.

    Regardless of who we get in the Draft I believe youth at the position is needed and I'd like to see at least one 1st day pick turn out to be a RB. Preferably Lynch but even Tony Hunt in round 2 or 3 is nice especially if we move down. People like Green because he’s been such a great asset to the Packers and the community. At age 30 though I’m not sure how much more he has left.
     
  18. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    I see RB as one of the positions of need on the Packers. I expect them to pick a HB in the first day of the draft if the right guy is available when they are on the clock.

    Rumors of Green's demise have been greatly exaggerated for at least 4 seasons. He is in great shape -- far better than last season coming off of a tendon tear, and hopefully will not be running behind up to 3 raw rookie offensive linemen while implementing a new offensive running and blocking system.

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    I guess his high school coach should have talked to you before he let Morency gain more than 1,500 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns his senior season.

    And God only knows what the staff Oklahoma State saw when they rotated him in 2003 and he put up 918 yards and eight touchdowns on 135 carries with a 6.8 per carry ave. and 1,474 yards with 12 touchdowns on 258 carries for a 5.7 ave. the next season. I guess they forgot to have you break down the film?

    [​IMG]
    And what the Hell was TT thinking when he traded for him and let him carry the rock 96 times for 434 yards, a 4.5 average with a couple of TD's, 4 runs of 20 or more yards and 26 first downs or his 17 catches for 118 yards.

    [​IMG]

    Look, I mentioned his occasional regression to sloppy technique, but if you think a guy with the talent to be drafted by two professional sports -- Major League Baseball and the NFL -- does not deserve any of the credit for his talent ... well, I guess I don't know what to say.

    [​IMG]
    Maybe they should have thrown him back???

    I'm sure that TT will now that you've weighed in with your definative scouting report :rubeyes:
     
  20. all about da packers

    all about da packers Cheesehead

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    I disagree.

    Morency will have to take Edgar's advice and work on it to get it down pat.

    Morency will have to study film.

    Morency will have to show up on the field, and play the actual game which can be quite different from talking about it and making suggestions in passing.

    Edgar can help him, but in the end it is up to Morency to put in the work to improve. If he does, than he deserves his share of the credit.
     
  21. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Morency has been a boy scout since coming to Green Bay. I suspect that he sees an opportunity with Green being a free agent and 30 years old.

    He answered the Bell this past season in GB, beating out players like Davenport, Herron, Gado and others who could not.

    There is no reason to disrespect this talented athlete -- who has things to work on (who doesn't) but earns his living with his talent not his position coaches advice.

    As much as I value good coaching -- I think CC overstated his case.
     
  22. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    Yikes! That post brought back some memories of the bad old days. Too bad about Eddie Lee Ivery. He could've been good, but he ripped up his knee TWICE on the astroturf of soldier field.
     
  23. porky88

    porky88 Cheesehead

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    RB's don't go from 1200 yards to 1000 yards to 800. They don't decline that way. They go from 1000 yards to 200 yards. A lot of the times the decline happens very fast and it's very drastic. It usually happens when they reach 30. Green is certainly still a great asset but if his career is going to extend much farther than a guy like Marshal Faulk’s then he’ll need someone to help carry the “load.” I’m all for bringing him back at a reasonable price but whether he’s back or not I believe he’ll need help.
     

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