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Are running back issues in Green Bay due to scouting or scheme?

Alex Green AP

As the Green Bay Packers welcome the best running back in the NFL back to Lambeau Field on Sunday, the home team will trot out Alex Green (pictured), James Starks, Johnny White, and DuJuan Harris.

Who?

Exactly.

That’s not entirely fair.  Starks has some lingering name recognition from his performance in the 2010 postseason.  But the running game in recent years has been more of a weakness than a strength in Green Bay, something the Packers win with not because of but in spite of.

So why is the running game so bad?  Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette blames G.M. Ted Thompson for not making the position a priority.  But recent history has proven that good running backs can be obtained even when running back isn’t a priority, with mid-round and low-round and no-round picks becoming great tailbacks.

The truth could be that it’s more about the scheme the Packers run, with short passes used as the equivalent of running plays and running backs relied on more heavily to pick up blitzers than pick up yards.

It’s impossible to blame the failures of the run game on Thompson without delving completely into whether and to what extent coach Mike McCarthy is developing the running backs that Thompson provides.  Also, how much time and effort is devoted to run blocking?  With one of the best quarterbacks in the league running the passing game, are the Packers spending too much time working on ways to protect him and not enough on opening running lanes?

Regardless, looking at the ways Thompson has acquired running backs is only part of the story.  Every year, college programs produce dozens of men who can move the chains, if they are given good blocking — and if they can hold on to the football.

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26 Responses to “Are running back issues in Green Bay due to scouting or scheme?”
  1. imjinbrdgr says: Dec 2, 2012 10:46 AM

    The Packer running backs are more than adequate, which is all you need when you have their air attack. What is less than adequate, is the run blocking, it stinks. Even AP needs a little crease to run through. Packer backs are stuffed at or behind the line about 50% of the time.

  2. pauliepacker says: Dec 2, 2012 10:48 AM

    It seems to be an offensive line issue to me as to why the Packers have a less than average running game. I would like to see Ted add some O line help, especially at tackle.Injuries at tackle position have not helped, either.

  3. manupngrowapair says: Dec 2, 2012 10:54 AM

    I attribute the Packers poor running game directly at Ted Thompson. However, I blame him for consistently overlooking the offensive line. This is his trademark. This was a big reason for the problems between he and Favre. Look at the sacks that Aaron Rodgers has taken. The Packers only carried seven offensive lineman into the season on their roster. That’s utter madness! Denver has proven time and time again that if the line can block and create lanes, it doesn’t matter who the back is, they’ll be successful.

  4. thepvyharvin says: Dec 2, 2012 10:54 AM

    Pack is one dimensional. They win because Rodgers is good. He gets hurt,they are a 4-12 team at best

  5. explosionsauce says: Dec 2, 2012 10:54 AM

    I’ll take option three, offensive line issues.

  6. anarchopurplism says: Dec 2, 2012 10:55 AM

    Benson was seen as an upgrade by many…..that has not worked out.

  7. brewcityitalian says: Dec 2, 2012 11:00 AM

    The offensive line is horrible,and is only built for pass blocking…they need to avoid the giants or 49ers in the playoffs, they can’t handle teams with dominant front 7…the bears front 7 is not dominating, and their offense is only brandon marshall……

  8. dragonfly99 says: Dec 2, 2012 11:04 AM

    It is baffling why Thompson and McCarthy do not put more emphasis on getting good quality running backs. It is understandable with their high powered passing attack, they would favor that, but playing in Green Bay when the weather turns it puts the entire team at a disadvantage when they are not able to move the ball through the air. Unfortunately for them the weather becomes more of a problem in late season games and the playoffs. Opponents have learned the Packers have become one dimensional and if you can stop the pass you can beat the Packers

  9. jerlee7 says: Dec 2, 2012 11:06 AM

    Average pass blocking line, worst run blocking line in the league.

  10. gpack22 says: Dec 2, 2012 11:10 AM

    Scheme, play calling, OL run blocking talent and Campen’s inability as OL coach. RB talent is by no means top notch but it would be a stretch for any top level RB’s to be successful in this current system.

  11. greej1938l says: Dec 2, 2012 11:15 AM

    Benson was doing just fine before he got hurt…..to say he didnt work out..because he got injured seems a bit unfair..

  12. peopletrains says: Dec 2, 2012 11:29 AM

    Its a combination of very average backs and very average run-blocking lineman (part of this due to injury, of course). That being said, I would love for Green Bay to steal Stepfan Taylor next April!

  13. peopletrains says: Dec 2, 2012 11:30 AM

    Let me add to my previous comments, its …very average line that can’t block, period.

  14. wludford says: Dec 2, 2012 11:31 AM

    It’s all about scheme- and personnel decisions flow from that. The Packers under Mike McCarthy are a pass-first offense, and probably always will be.

    They have a top QB in Rodgers, and an excellent receiver corps that has taken a lot of draft picks and salary cap to acquire and develop. They count on the veteran Rodgers to release the ball quickly, rather than spend the resources on a top OL. Spending salary-cap on anything more than an average RB will simply take away from their passing personnel.

    Defensively, they can’t really afford a top rated defense as the offensive skill positions (except RB) take up some much of the salary-cap. It’s never going to be a focus in Green Bay anyway as long as McCarthy is coach.

  15. booboothekid says: Dec 2, 2012 11:32 AM

    If we would have offered more the a 4th rounder in 08 we would have gotten BeastMode….but Seattle was worse then the pPackers, so their 4th round pick was a better value then ours. Why didn’t we offer a third?! Or a second rounder even?! Aaron Rodgers went public with a plea to bring Marshawn to Green Bay. He wanted to reunite with his college back. Looking back on it….Ted Thompson has wiffed on his free agency stance. He lit the fire that started the Favre war when he didn’t get Favre Moss…even tho I am glad he didn’t make that move now because I think Aaron is much better..but not bringing in Moss was the beginning of the end for Favre…but could you imagine a younger pre-New England Moss with Brett? Our 07 squad would have went to the Super Bowl. That was the year Brady lit the world on fire and Moss caught 28TD’s. The same year we lost to the damn Giants in the NFC championship game. It would have been amazing. Then they wiffed on not bringing in BeastMode. Ted Thompson is a draft guru. He is amazing building through the draft…but he doesn’t do diddley in free agency.

  16. peopletrains says: Dec 2, 2012 11:46 AM

    This is much more simpler than scheme, its plain ol’ execution. Alex Green can’t break a tackle to save his life and James Starks is slow and has seriously plateaued from a few years ago. It also doesn’t help that both backs lack any sort of vision. The worst part is that McCarthy’s ego gets in the way and he thinks they are a balanced team: 26:27 vs DET and way too much running vs. the Giants (and I totally realize you have to run enough to keep the D on edge, but you don’t have to be balanced for that to happen, you just have to effective when you actually do run the ball). With the success of their passing game, lanes should be wide open for players like Green.

  17. peopletrains says: Dec 2, 2012 11:55 AM

    A major reason Ted Thompson is a draft guru IS because he doesn’t do anything is free agency (except Woodson, of course). He has a good track record of selecting good players and has enough picks every year that he can make moves to get the players he wants. I would much rather have it this way than have a team that is cash strapped every single season from pursuing high cost free agents!

  18. stellarperformance says: Dec 2, 2012 11:56 AM

    thepvyharvin says:
    Dec 2, 2012 10:54 AM
    Pack is one dimensional. They win because Rodgers is good. He gets hurt,they are a 4-12 team at best
    ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    Vikes are one dimensional. They might win because Peterson is good. He gets hurt, they are a 2-14 team at best.

  19. ennuirudy says: Dec 2, 2012 12:13 PM

    OL is notoriously weak and the coach has to go. He’s been a problem for the last few seasons. Thompson hasn’t helped by not drafting or securing any free agent players for the OL. He seems fixated completely upon the D. While the secondary does suck, should AR go down, the season is over.

  20. tmilla19 says: Dec 2, 2012 12:14 PM

    Cedric Benson was a great addition and was doing a good job before he got hurt. Green and Starks just aren’t as good. They should have drafted Muscle Hamster instead of Nick Perry.

  21. longhairdontcare66 says: Dec 2, 2012 12:14 PM

    Lack of scouting offensive linemen that can run block.

  22. leatherface2012 says: Dec 2, 2012 12:20 PM

    all packer fans think john kuuuhhhhhhn is better than adrian peterson, just cuz he wears a packers uniform

  23. leatherface2012 says: Dec 2, 2012 12:21 PM

    packers are the greatest because of their awesome team colors….not!!!!….cmon, green and pumpkin orange?

  24. aaronitout says: Dec 2, 2012 12:47 PM

    ennuirudy says:
    Dec 2, 2012 12:13 PM
    OL is notoriously weak and the coach has to go. He’s been a problem for the last few seasons. Thompson hasn’t helped by not drafting or securing any free agent players for the OL. He seems fixated completely upon the D. While the secondary does suck, should AR go down, the season is over.

    ————————————————————

    You do realize that two of Thompson’s last three first round draft picks have been offensive tackles? It’s not TT’s fault if those players are hurt and can’t contribute.

    I’d say the biggest issue is Campen. I think they need to fire him this offseason and hire a veteran offensive line coach that knows what he is doing.

  25. peopletrains says: Dec 2, 2012 4:33 PM

    How has Thompson overlooked the O-Line? Bulaga, Sherrod, Sitton, Datko, Lang, and others in the draft and he signed Saturday this past offseason. Do your research before you post. It saves us time correcting you.

  26. greenbay4life says: Dec 2, 2012 6:44 PM

    There are a plethora of reasons as to why the Packers run game is subpar.

    1. The running backs: no vision when there are holes, constant running into the backs of blockers, and no moves (Starks constantly tries to run away from or through defenders instead of trying to make them miss.) The only time Starks makes a good run is when no one touches him. Green is getting better at seeing holes but he is hesitant sometimes and his skill set is more suited for 3rd down work.

    2. The line. Jeff Saturday couldn’t block a senior citizen in a wheel chair even if the wheel chair’s breaks were on, same with Newhouse. I’ve also noticed that the o-line’s work ethic seems to tail off once a run is called. Half the time the defender runs right passed a Green Bay linemen.

    3. Scheme: this tends to go hand in hand with the linemen because I really don’t think the linemen understand the concept of zone blocking. If a defender crosses your face you block him and make him move horizontally toward the sideline. A lot of the time I’ve noticed that the o-line will run on their projected blocking path and will let guys run right across their face on a vertical path to the ball. That can’t happen. We don’t really have the size or skill level to be playing a man blocking scheme so I think our current linemen just need to watch some more film and go to a zone blocking camp or something.

    4. Play Calling: I am never surprised when we run the ball. NEVER. The defense isn’t surprised either. Green Bay’s average gain on draw plays is above and beyond their regular running average. Yet they run out of the shotgun formation barely at all. The defense is spread out to defend the pass most of the time so it makes me wonder why GB runs so few times out of the shotgun. Maybe that’s why I will never be an NFL coach, I think to simply. Also the hurry up offense makes us so much more deadly yet how often do we use it… I pretty sure I can count on one hand how many times we have.

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