19

January

What Route Will Packers Take at Running Back?

Packers RB DuJuan Harris

Packers RB DuJuan Harris

For the third consecutive season, the Green Bay Packers failed to have a 1,000-yard running back.

To start the season, the Packers surprised many by signing veteran Cedric Benson and making him the starter. Benson was supposed to be “the guy” in the backfield. And while he added another dimension to the offense, he suffered a Lisfranc injury Oct. 7 against Indianapolis and was sidelined for the rest of the season.

In all likelihood, Benson will not return next season.

Second-year running back Alex Green stepped in and filled Benson’s shoes as the starter. Green showed flashes but failed to make the most of his opportunity.

So when James Starks was ready to return, the team gave him a shot as the primary ball carrier. Starks was more effective than Green, but a late-season knee injury threatened his season. Facing the possibility of putting Starks on injured reserve, the team needed a backup plan.

In comes Ryan Grant–the guy the Packers showed no interest in re-signing when he was an unrestricted free agent last summer. But desperate times called for desperate measures. Grant carried the ball 20 times for 80 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Tennessee Titans, perhaps the best game by a Packers running back all season.

But ultimately, the Packers went with second-year player DuJuan Harris, whom they called up from the practice squad Dec. 1. Harris was likely the team’s most consistent option in the backfield but may be best-suited for a change-of-pace role within the offense.

This begs the question–Who will be the Packers’ starting running back next season?

Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel suggests that the Packers are “seeking (a) leading man at running back.” There are several veteran runners scheduled to become free agents.

Among the unrestricted free agents the Packers could go after are St. Louis’ Steven Jackson, Miami’s Reggie Bush, Dallas’ Felix Jones and the New York Jets’ Shonn Greene. Jackson would be ideal, but the Packers would probably only be interested in him in the secondary market given he will be 30 in July.

The Packers have been tied to Jackson for some time, but he’s certainly declining athletically. Bush fell 14 yards short of his second-straight 1,000-yard season, and he’ll likely be too expensive for the Packers. Jones and Greene both have shown flashes, but neither player has lived up to their draft position.