A positive in the game??? Were we watching the same game? Brandon Jackson, our alleged feature back, had seven carries for 12 yards. 12 yards!! More shocking, if you take out his long carry of 11 yards, he had six carries for 1 yard! How can you regard a 0.16 average yards per carry as a positive? John Kuhn’s underwhelming six carries for 31 yards looked like an MVP performance by comparison. What I would consider a “positive in the game” is the 62-yard burst for a touchdown that Ryan Grant had on the first offensive series when we played Chicago at Soldier Field last year, on his way to a 137-yard day. We don’t have anyone who can do that, and yet there’s no indication that this glaringly obvious gap is a concern.
McCarthy stated, when asked if he’s satisfied with Jackson and Kuhn specifically, “You ask me that every week. I like our running backs.” I like them too. They’re nice guys. And they are productive and useful players in their regular roles – Jackson as a third-down back who can catch passes and pick up blitzes, and Kuhn as a fullback with versatility and good hands. That doesn’t make them featured backs. Jackson’s 2.27 yards per carry in the last two games simply is not sufficient. And the lack of touches indicates the Packers have no confidence in him either.
But the lack of rushing yards only tells half the story. The Packers have long been a pass first team, so they don’t need gaudy rushing stats to log wins. However, their inability to run the ball affects the team in other ways:
- No big play threat – with a season long run so far of only 18 yards (25th in the NFL), opposing defenses can cheat and crowd the line and our receivers since they don’t need to worry about an explosive back.
- Ineffective play-action – with nobody biting on play fakes, it will be harder for Rodgers to find open receivers particularly for big plays downfield (which you saw none of against Chicago).
- Lack of quarterback protection – nothing makes a defense lick their chops more than an offense they know only passes, enabling them to run blitzes and pressure the quarterback relentlessly.
- Prone to penalties – it’s never easy for an offensive lineman to play back on his heels when he knows the defense can just pin their ears back every play. It leads to false starts, illegal formations and holding penalties, which we saw plenty of Monday night.
- Inability to finish out games – nothing is more crucial to finishing out a tight game than an effective running attack. When you’re forced to pass late, errors happen -- again, to wit, Monday night.
Half the sports prognosticators out there are clamoring for a trade for Marshawn Lynch, with some speculating that he could be had for a third-round pick. If that’s the case, Thompson would be stupid not to pull the trigger and rectify what is quickly becoming as glaring a deficiency for the Packers as atrocious pass protection was last season. Unlike last year with the offensive line, though, there’s nobody coming back from injury this season who will help us. A trade is the only chance we have of getting an impact player. I just hope Mike and Ted see that.