Category Archives: Johnathan Franklin

7

April

Xs and Os: Packers Running Game from Substitution Packages

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Packers running back Johnathan Franklin had a career day against the Cincinnati Bengals while running out of substitution packages.

The key to the Green Bay Packers’ offensive success is having the ability to run or pass out of any personnel grouping and formation, especially with multiple wide receivers on the field.

This means, in order to achieve offensive balance, the Packers must be able to run out of passing formations with substitution packages.

A substitution package is when the offense deploys different personnel than their base 21 group (2 running backs, 1 tight end, and 2 wide receivers. The Packers like running the 11 (1 running back, 1 tight end, and 3 wide receivers) and the 10 personnel groupings (1 running back, 0 tight ends, 4 wide receivers) on any down and distance.

Obviously, not having an extra running back (the fullback) or tight end (or H-back) on the field could pose a schematic disadvantage in the running game by having fewer bigger bodies on the field.

However, with the use of well-designed blocking packages and willing blocks by the wide receivers, the Packers had good success with running the ball from substitution groups.

Under the tutelage of wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett, who was a former running back, the Packers receiving corps has developed into a solid group of blockers who contribute immensely to the running game. This is one of the most underrated aspects of the Packers’ offensive success.

Let’s take a look at some of the staples of this deployment.

Disclaimer 1: You know the drill by now. #YKTDBN. I have never seen Mike McCarthy’s playbook. #IHNSMMP.

Disclaimer 2: #YKTDBN. This is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes. #TIAOFIP. Different formations and defensive fronts will change the blocking rules.

11 Outside Toss Strong: This play is frequently run from shotgun 11 personnel with an offset running back to the strong side of the formation. The key to the play is to get the ball outside and away from the defensive end and Sam linebacker.

Slide1

The outside wide receiver blocks down on the slot cornerback ($) and the slot receiver kicks out and sets the leverage on the strong side cornerback. Notice that the slot is further off the line of scrimmage to allow the outside receiver more time to block down.

22

February

Johnathan Franklin Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

Packers RB Johnathan Franklin

Packers RB Johnathan Franklin

1) Introduction:  Coming into the season, Franklin was expected to handle some return duties and play second fiddle to starter Eddie Lacy. But after an unspectacular training camp, Franklin was buried on the depth chart behind Lacy, James Starks and an injured DuJuan Harris. Franklin’s opportunity would come, but overall, it was a quiet rookie season.

2) Profile:

Johnathan A. Franklin

  • Age: 24
  • Born: 10/23/1989 in Los Angeles, CA
  • Height: 5’10″
  • Weight: 205
  • College: UCLA
  • Rookie Year: 2013
  • NFL Experience: 1 year

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Although he was a fourth-round pick, Franklin was expected by some (including himself) to be selected in the second or third round. So from that standpoint, much of Packer Nation was excited about the eccentric rookie runner. However, training camp proved to be a quick drizzle on Franklin’s rookie parade.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: The highlight and low-light of Franklin’s season was Sep. 22 in Cincinnati. Filling in for an injured Lacy and a hobbled Starks — who left the game earlier — Franklin burst onto the scene with 126 total yards and his first career touchdown. “That’s the Franklin we thought we were getting,” Packers fans said. Then, on a crucial fourth down in crunch time, Franklin fumbled, which was recovered by the Bengals and returned for a touchdown. It was the best of times, then it was the worst of times.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success:  Realistically, Franklin had very little impact on the Packers’ season. He was on multiple special teams units and had the big day against the Bengals, but that’s it.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs:  Franklin finished the 2013-14 season on injured reserve and was inactive for the Packers’ wild card playoff game against the 49ers.

Season Report Card:

(C-) Level of expectations met during the season

(D-) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(N/A) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: D+

Note: It was a rough year for Franklin, but I still think he has something. After all, I had him ranked ahead of Lacy (as the No. 2 back behind Gio Bernard) prior to last year’s draft. And yes, I was dead wrong on that.

31

October

The 2013 Class is Packers’ Best Draft Yet Under Thompson

Packers RB Eddie Lacy leads a ridiculously strong 2013 rookie class for the Green Bay Packers

Ted Thompson has made a lot of brilliant draft picks since taking over as Green Bay Packers general manager in 2005.

He drafted some guy named Aaron Rodgers in the first round in 2005, Greg Jennings (current issues aside) in the second round in 2006,  Jordy Nelson in the second round in 2008 and both Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji in the first round in 2009. Don’t forget Randall Cobb in the second round of 2011 either.

The middle rounds have seen success too. James Jones was a third rounder in 2007 and Josh Sitton was selected in the fourth round in 2008.  Sitton’s partner-in-crime, T.J. Lang, was a fourth rounder as well in 2009.

This is just a partial list of great picks Thompson has made during his tenure with the Packers.  He’s hit more than he’s missed and has Green Bay poised to be in Super Bowl contention for the next several years.    We could go on and on about how deft Thompson has been at drafting over the years and that doesn’t even include undrafted free agents.

That being said, no draft class of Thompson’s has made quite the impact, especially right out of the gate, as the 2013 class of rookies.  Some of it may not have been planned on due to yet another injury epidemic on the Packers’ roster, but this group of youngsters has come to play and very well could down as Thompson’s finest draft class to date.

To review, here is the 2013 Green Bay Packers draft class:

1. Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

2. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

4a. David Bakhtiari, T, Colorado

4b. J.C. Tretter, T, Cornell

4c. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA

5a. Micah Hyde, CB, Iowa

5b. Josh Boyd, DE, Mississippi State

6. Nate Palmer, LB, Illinois State

7a. Charles Johnson, WR, Grand Valley State

7b. Kevin Dorsey, WR, Maryland

7c. Sam Barrington, LB, South Florida

Go down that list and you will see many reasons why the Packers are still in control of the NFC North despite Lambeau Field once again doubling as an infirmary.

10

October

Four games in, Packers have No. 5 ground game in NFL

Rookies David Bakhtiari and Eddie Lacy have helped recharge the Packers' ground game.

Rookies David Bakhtiari and Eddie Lacy have helped recharge the Packers’ ground game.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, but in the case of the Packers’ new-look backfield, the early results show significant improvement running the football.

One quarter into the 2013 season, and the pass-happy Green Bay Packers have the league’s fifth-best ground game. The Packers are currently grinding out 141 rushing yards per game and 5.3 yards per attempt; Green Bay trails only Philadelphia, Seattle, Buffalo and Indianapolis running the football.

Eddie Lacy, the team’s second-round pick and clear-cut No. 1 back, was just one yard shy of becoming the team’s third-consecutive 100-yard rusher Sunday against the Detroit Loins.

Lacy was knocked out of the Washington game after suffering a concussion, paving the way for James Starks to rush for 132 yards on 20 carries. The following week against the Bengals–with Lacy still out and Starks being forced out of the game early–fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin racked up 103 yards on just 13 carries.

Improving the running game was high on the team’s to-do list this past offseason, according to coach Mike McCarthy.

“We’ll be better,” McCarthy said of his team’s running game following the 2012 season. I promise you that. Big letters.”

And better, they are. Last season, the Packers’ rushing attack ranked 20th in the league after coming in at No. 27 in 2011 and No. 24 in 2010. The last time the Packers ranked in the top half of the league was 2009, when they came in at No. 14 after averaging 117.8 yards per game.

Starks missed the Lions game and is expected to miss “a couple weeks,” according to McCarthy. Franklin stepped in as the No. 2 back behind Lacy against Detroit, but the rookie didn’t get another backfield snap after a second-quarter fumble. Instead, McCarthy opted to use receiver Randall Cobb in the backfield for a third-quarter possession.

Cobb took his first carry and bounced it to the outside for a 67-yard gain down the left sideline. He added another five-yard carry on that hurry-up drive to give himself a modest 36-yard-per-carry average on the afternoon.

Two fumbles in as many games certainly won’t help Franklin’s case to get a share of the workload. Perhaps undrafted rookie Michael Hill will get himself some spot duty depending on the team’s health at the possession. Hill was called up from the practice squad prior to the Lions game.

8

October

Packers Stock Report: Back on Track Edition

Jordy Nelson vs. Detroit Lions

Jordy Nelson- “He will bring it down”

The Packers took a big step in the right direction this week with a boring, but thorough beating of the Lions. The Packers won the game where they haven’t won many lately – in the trenches.

The offensive line, especially the interior three, showed what they are capable of, going up against some of the toughest, baddest (over-rated?) hombres in the NFL and controlling them for pretty much the entire game.

The defensive line was stellar; something we first saw in the preseason and it has been consistently good four games into the season.

So let’s take a look at who’s trending and in what direction after Sunday’s game:

Rising

T.J. Lang
When matched up against Ndomukong Suh and the other bruising interior defensive linemen for the Lions, Lang did exactly what needed to be done: Control their pursuit upfield and use their own momentum against them to create running lanes. It was the second straight solid performance from Lang against a group of elite interior defensive linemen.

Josh Sitton
After a horrible opener against the 49ers and battling back problems against Washington, Sitton has played a key role in shutting down Geno Atkins and quieting Ndomukong Suh. Thanks in part to Sitton’s efforts, the Packers are fifth in the league in rushing and Aaron Rodgers has had a pretty clean pocket to step into. Moving Sitton to the left side has paid off so far.

Jordy Nelson
You could put any of the three receivers in the rising category. I chose Nelson because his toughness is second to none. It doesn’t matter if he’s covered on the sideline or absorbing a big hit over the middle, Nelson makes the catch, then gets up and does it all over again. He hasn’t busted out the Jordy Stiff Arm yet this season, but the Jordy-Makes-a-Miraculous-Catch-With-a-Defender-Draped-All-Over-Him-as-he-Falls-Out-of-Bounds plays have more than made up for it.

Steady

Evan Dietrich-Smith
If we’re going to give Sitton and Lang props for controlling some monster defensive tackles over the last few weeks, it’s only fair that we show Dietrich-Smith some love too. The free-agent-to-be is putting together a nice little season so far. Nothing spectacular, but more than holding his own against some quality interior defensive linemen.

7

October

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 22, Lions 9

Morgan Burnett and A.J. Hawk helped contain the Calvin Johnson-less Lions offense.

Morgan Burnett and A.J. Hawk helped contain the Calvin Johnson-less Lions offense.

Kickoff was scheduled for noon in Green Bay, but the game between the Packers and Detroit Lions got underway mid-morning with the surprising news that Calvin Johnson was inactive.

Johnson, regarded as the best receiver in football, may be as important to the Lions offense as any non-quarterback is to his team around the league. And although the Lions added Reggie Bush this offseason to give them a more complete offense, it’s Johnson that makes the wheels go round.

With Johnson out, the Lions were unable to get anything going against the Packers defense.

Coming into the game, Bush—whom the Lions move all over the formation and utilize him in the passing game—looked like a tough matchup for a Packers defense that struggles in the middle of the field, but Detroit’s new offensive weapon managed just 69 total yards on 17 touches.

It’s hard to say what might have been had the Lions’ offense been at full strength, as the high-flying Packers offense only posted 22 points themselves. But in the end, five Mason Crosby field goals and a James Jones touchdown was all the Packers needed to get their second win of the season.

And as things currently stand, the Packers (2-2) trail the Lions and Bears (3-2) by only one game atop the NFC North standings.

Game Balls

Mason Crosby

After a disastrous 2012 season and ugly Family Night Scrimmage, Crosby has brought his A-game so far the regular season. With the offense struggling to punch the ball into the end zone, Crosby scored 16 of the team’s 22 points and left little doubt on his five field-goal attempts. I’m no kicking expert, so I often relate kickers to golfers. And right now, Crosby is hitting the fairways with his short irons and his driver. But of course, Giorgio Tavecchio would’ve been six-for-five with a hole-in-one.

Nick Perry

Welcome to the NFL. Sunday was unquestionably (right?) the best game of Perry’s NFL career, as last year’s first-round pick registered his first multi-sack performance. The Packers were unable to come up with the football after Perry forced a fumble on a sack of Stafford, but Clay Matthews’ book end showed flashes throughout the afternoon of why the team drafted him in the first round of last year’s draft. If the Packers are getting three sacks out of Perry and Matthews, they’re going to be tough to beat.

23

September

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 30, Bengals 34

Aaron Rodgers vs. BengalsOverall, lots of bad but a couple of good things showed up in the Packers loss to the Bengals.  On one hand, we haven’t seen a game as messy as this one since maybe the 18 penalty, 2 turnover night against the Bears in 2010.  Aaron Rodgers looked a little lost amongst all the new faces making an appearance due to injuries and the Packers didn’t look as sharp as they normally did, though having to put a wide reciever/returner at running back is probably as desperate as I’ve ever seen the Packers get.  On the bright side, the Packers look like they may have another viable running back in Johnathan Franklin and the defense was for once the strength of the team.  In fact everything was flipped today; the running game was brutally effective while the passing game was wildly inconsistent and the defense was the reason the Packers stayed in the game while the offense basically blew a huge lead late in the game.

Game Balls

Johnathan Franklin: Give credit where credit is due; many fans had written Franklin off as dead after a dismal showing in the preseason and not seeing the field even in a blowout win against the Redskins last week.  Ironically, that paid big dividends as the Bengals were obviously caught with their pants down in coping with the shiftiness and wiggle of Franklin on stretch plays.  I also don’t really fault Franklin for the failed conversion, if it wasn’t for the fact that Kuhn, Starks, Harris and Lacy were all injured, Franklin would never have been called to make the play, he’s simply not that kind of back (you can fault him for fumbling the ball though).  Personally, I think teams now see what the Packers have in Franklin and I doubt the holes will be as open as they were against the Bengals, but what is perhaps more important is that Franklin does possess the physical capability to be a running back in the NFL, something that wasn’t certain coming into the season.  Franklin still has a ton of work to do on pass protection and running between the tackles, and I don’t see him really being a preferred option at running back this year, but will probably be a force to reckoned with next year when things start to click for him.