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.

10

September

Packers Transactions: The Graham Harrell Story

As a staff writer at AllGreenBayPackers.com, I did my own 53 man roster prediction and as I said at the beginning of that article, I am wondering what the hell I was thinking now.

I thought Chastin West and Tori Gurley had too good of a preseason and one of them would make it onto the team as the 6th wide receiver; neither made the team (but both were signed to the practice squad).  I thought Caleb Schlauderaff would make the team based on his draft status and the lack of depth of the interior offensive line; he was traded to the Jets, but not before being informed that he was going to get cut anyways. Finally I thought Graham Harrell would definitely make the team.

With West, Gurley, Schlauderaff, I wasn’t all that surprised that thing hadn’t turned out the way I predicted; but with Harrell it just didn’t make any sense.  Harrell was supposed to be the insurance policy for an Aaron Rodgers concussion and a Matt Flynn trade.  He had a memorable win against the Colts in week 3 of the preseason and had a good enough training camp that many (including myself) assumed he was good enough to be a backup with the majority of teams.

So when Graham Harrell was first cut by the Packers, then cleared waivers and then re-signed to their practice squad, I met each event with a little disbelief.  How could someone who looked so good at football’s toughest position in the preseason not only get cut, but also not even get claimed?  I would look at the San Francisco 49ers depth chart and wonder, how could Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick be so bad during the preseason and still be on the team, but why no love for Graham Harrell?  What had happened?

My only conclusion was that every other fan, the media and myself had got overzealous.  During the Ted Thompson era, we’ve come to expect a ridiculous amount of depth at all positions.  One prime example was that last year 5 players, an inordinate amount, were signed to 53 man rosters after getting cut by the Packers. (ironically this year no players were claimed by other teams after being cut by the Packers)  Fans and the media a like love to tell stories of how unheralded backups up stepped up and helped win Super Bowl XLV.  But really, in the free agency era, it simply isn’t possible to stockpile good players; there simply isn’t enough money.