14

March

Dirty Bird Steven Jackson Poops on Packers’ Plans

RB Steven Jackson

“Almost” Packers RB Steven Jackson

When free agency kicked off on Tuesday, Pro Football Talk suggested the Packers were the early favorite to sign running back Steven Jackson. Later, Bill Huber of Packer Report tweeted that Jackson will “likely” sign with Green Bay.

So much for speculation. ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Czar of inside NFL information, has just reported that Jackson has declined the Packers’ offer and signed a 3-year deal with the Falcons.

Jackson, 29, has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark every season since taking over as the starter in 2005. But with a great deal of production comes a lot of tread on the tires; Jackson has carried the ball 2,395 times in his nine-year NFL career.

Along with the Packers, the Falcons, Bengals, Lions and Steelers showed interest in signing the veteran running back. When Sports Illustrated NFL writer Peter King told Jackson that he should sign with Green Bay, Jackson responded, “It makes a lot of sense.”

Jackson would have been a short-term fix for the Packers at running back, considering he will turn 30 before the season. Green Bay signed Cedric Benson, then 29, last offseason to shoulder the load in the ground game.  Barring other developments, Benson will surely be back.

Jackson is a three-time Pro Bowl selection, making the team in 2006, 2009 and 2010. He was the 24th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, which is exactly where the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers one year later. And now he’s a Falcon.

The Packers’ contract is now lining the bottom of some Dirty Bird’s cage and Ted Thompson is left looking in the air and wiping something off his jacket.

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Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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13

March

2013 NFL Draft Preview: Ranking Packers Running Back Prospects

North Carolina RB Gio Bernard

North Carolina RB Gio Bernard

Running back can be a tough position to evaluate headed into the NFL Draft.

Take last year for example. Trent Richardson was considered a “can’t-miss” guy at the top of the draft, but Alfred Morris, the 173rd overall pick, had the best season of all rookie running backs last year.

This year’s draft doesn’t have a clear-cut top back. There isn’t a Richardson or an Adrian Peterson in this year’s draft class, but there are a handful of intriguing prospects that could step in and start for a team from day one.

Nearly all draft rankings have the same two guys at the top: Alabama’s Eddie Lacy and North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard. Most have Lacy firmly entrenched as a first-round pick with Bernard projected to go in round two.

Lacy and Bernard are completely different backs. While Lacy is a physical, punishing runner, Bernard is a versatile player capable of doing damage in the passing game as well as between the tackles. In today’s pass-happy NFL, I prefer Bernard as a prospect slightly ahead of Lacy.

But beyond the top two guys, this year’s crop of running backs has some quality depth. Oklahoma State’s Joseph Randle, Clemson’s Andre Ellington, UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball all have a chance to be selected on Day 2.

Perhaps the most interesting running back in this year’s class is Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina. Lattimore suffered the most gruesome knee injuries I’ve ever seen last season, and concerns over his long-term health will likely cause him to drop to the third round.

It would be an upset if the Packers don’t add a running back at some point this offseason, whether it’s a veteran via free agency or a young guy through the draft.

1. Gio Bernard, North Carolina (5-8, 202)

  • Draft stock: Late 1st/Early 2nd
  • 40 time: 4.53, 225-pound bench: 19 reps, 10-yard split: 1.53
  • Two-year starter, declared after his RS Sophomore season.
  • The second round is likely where Bernard will be selected, but I really believe he’s the best running back in this class. On top of being a talented runner, he’s a dangerous return man and receiver. I see Bernard as Ray Rice 2.0, and I really think he’d be a natural fit in the Packers’ offense.
12

March

Will John Kuhn Return to the Packers?

John Kuhn

My hunch is the Packers bring FB John Kuhn back in 2013.

Most of the offseason focus on Packers roster cuts has focused on Jermichael Finley and A.J. Hawk. Both of those players elicit strong reactions from Packers fans.

Mention Finley on a sports-talk radio show and the phones lines light up. Drop Hawk’s name in a blog post and the comments section gets heated in a hurry.

John Kuhn doesn’t move the needle like Finley or Hawk. Most Packers fans like Kuhn. They view Kuhn as an underdog who got where he is through toughness and hard work. They also like yelling “Kuuuuuuuhn!” whenever he touches the ball.

As well-liked as the fullback from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania is, however, there’s a chance his days in Green Bay could be over.

Kuhn is set to make $2.6 million in 2013. That’s a lot of money to pay a back in a passing offense who isn’t much of a threat to run, pick up short-yardage first downs or turn checkdown passes into big gains.

Kuhn played 39.2 percent of the Packers offensive snaps in 2012. Pro Football Focus gave him an overall grade of 4.3 for the season, ranking him 12th among all fullbacks  (out of 25 that were graded)..

His blocking grade of 4.4 ranked him 16th and his running grade of -1.1 ranked 23rd.

Do those numbers merrit a $2.6 million salary? Probably not, but my hunch is Kuhn will be back unless the Packers could really use that extra $2.6 million to get the Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews contract extensions out of the way sooner rather than later.

I doubt Thompson is going to do much in free agency besides maybe a signing or two for depth. Thompson probably won’t need Kuhn’s cap space to sign free agents.

I also have a hunch that the Packers will head into 2013 with Evan Dietrich-Smith at center and Marshall Newhouse at left tackle. Either that or Dietrich-Smith at center, Bryan Bulaga at left tackle and Don Barclay at right tackle. Whichever combination happens to be the one, Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers are going to want a pass-blocking back who knows where to be and can get the job done.

5

February

Packers Running Backs: Present and Future?

DuJuan Harris - Packers Running Back

DuJuan Harris – Packers Running Back

I dig into every article I can find about the Packers and the draft, including here at Al’s site.  There is a wide range of opinions on the subject of Packers running backs.  Lets look at my views on running backs,  those with the team, and in the draft.

The Packers currently have six running backs and one full back listed on their roster.  Those include running backs Cedric Benson, Alex Green, James Starks, Brandon Saine, Dujuan Harris, Ryan Grant and John Kuhn at full back.  Grant filled a spot caused by injuries, showed he can still do a little, but like last year, just say thank you and good luck.   The question on Benson would be is he even worth bringing back?  He did ok at best. He is a talented back with mileage and age, he just turned 30 and is coming back from a foot injury that required surgery.   I don’t see any compelling reason to bring him back other then competition.

Harris looks like a very good 3rd down back that can fill in nicely when needed to start, but not a “featured back”.  He does it all pretty well.  Has a decent jump cut, might need to be a bit more patient looking for cut back lanes.  He needs to be brought back and coached up over the off season.  Starks has shown he can be productive as a runner, is a good receiver out of the back field, but needs to work on blitz pickup.  How much time do you put into a talented 6th round RB that can’t stay healthy?  I think he should be brought back, but with any additional injuries he would get a quick hook from me.

Saine, another UDFA like Harris, has good straight line speed, is a decent receiver out of the back field and quite good in blitz pickup.  His ability in Pass Protection might have been his best asset. Not a great fit for the Packers running game.  He lacks lateral agility, but has quickness and speed.

29

December

Packers DuJuan Harris: What are people saying?

Packers running back DuJuan Harris

Packers running back DuJuan Harris

On December 1st, the Packers signed running back DuJuan Harris to the active roster from their practice squad. Since that time, Harris has run the ball 20 times at a 4.4 yd per carry average and has two touchdowns. More importantly, he has shown something we haven’t seen in a Green Bay running back since Ahman Green – patience, vision and the ability to cut and make tacklers miss, while still hitting the hole hard.

First, a brief Bio:

In High School in Florida, Harris ran for 3,000-plus yards and 45 touchdowns, including a single-game record of 363 and five TDs. At the time, he weighed about 160lbs, which combined with his lack of height meant he didn’t get a lot of offers to play college ball.

Harris went to Division 1-A Troy, where he had 540 carries for 2,635 yards and 27 TDs and 79 receptions for 553 yards and five TDs.

Harris was signed as an undrafted free agent by Jacksonville and spent 11 games on the practice squad and 5 games on the active roster.  He was cut in training camp in 2012, signed by the Steelers for their last preseason game and then cut again. The Packers signed him to their practice squad on Oct 24th and then to their active roster on Dec. 1st.

In his limited playing time, DuJuan Harris has drawn high praise from some teammates and coaches:

Mike McCarthy: He’s a change-of-pace player for us because of his physical skill set. He presents a different challenge to defenders. He’s small at impact and he’s as quick as he is fast. DuJuan has the ability to put his foot down and lower his shoulder, and he also has the ability to make you miss. He’s unique and we haven’t had a runner with that skill set in my time here.

Mike McCarthy: “He’s a young man that has a lot of ability. He’s 5-foot-7, but other than that we like everything about him. He has very good hands. He has burst. He’s quick. So, he’s done a nice job since he’s been here.”

James Jones: ”He’s got a bright future. I’ve never seen anybody as quick as him in and out of his cuts. It’s similar to Barry Sanders. Seriously. “It’s similar to Barry! I know he came from nowhere, but watching him in practice, and the way he moves, all that stuff, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

27

December

Which Packers RB Will Have the “Hot Hand” the Rest of the Season?


 

Ryan Grant

Could Ryan Grant be the hot hand Mike McCarthy talks about?

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said during his Wednesday news conference that he will continue to stick with the “hot hand” at running back.

Usually when a coach says something like that it means he has a number of options at the position, which often means he has no options because he has a bunch of guys that don’t stand out and aren’t very good.

 

I don’t think that’s necessarily the case with the Packers running backs. Each guys brings a little something to the table, even if they aren’t a full meal.

 

With Alex Green returning from a concussion, McCarthy has another option as he experiments early in games to try and find somebody with that hot hand.

None of these guys will ever be confused with Adrian Peterson, but there are at least some viable options now. Whoever gets the nod will be running behind an offensive line that appears to be more aggressive thanks to the addition of Evan Dietrich-Smith at center and Don Barclay at right tackle.

Ryan Grant
Can Grant really keep this up? He actually looks like he’s got a little something left. Grant is usually good when the thermometer starts plummeting, but what he’s done so far has come out of nowhere. When he fumbled against the Bears, I thought he might wind up back on his couch. But McCarthy put him back out there and that confidence has paid off.

Alex Green
My money is on Green being the hot guy. I like what he brings as a receiver and if he’s patient enough, he can hit holes with authority. There’s some newfound power on the offensive line with Dietrich-Smith and Barclay. Let’s see what Green can do with 10-15 carries behind those big guys.

DuJuan Harris
This guy cracks me up. He takes the handoff, ducks his already short frame behind his linemen, then explodes out of nowhere through a crack up front. Patience and explosiveness, two of the most important traits a running back can have, appear to be no problem for Harris.

James Starks
Should we even include Starks as an option? If Grant, Green or Harris catch fire, should McCarthy even bother giving Starks another shot? If he does get another shot, how many carries can we expect before he’s back on the trainer’s table? So many questions…

31

October

Will Packers make a move before Thursday’s trade deadline?

Rams RB Steven Jackson

Will the Packers trade for Rams RB Steven Jackson?

The NFL trade deadline usually comes with boat loads of speculation, before a whole lot of nothing actually happens.

And in the case of the Packers under general manager Ted Thompson, the trade deadline tends to be deafeningly quiet. This year, however, the Packers have a clear need at running back after losing Cedric Benson with a foot injury and there are now two proven runners available for a reasonable price.

St. Louis has been rumored to be shopping veteran running back Steven Jackson for a draft pick, and Carolina is reportedly open to trading DeAngelo Williams.

Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said Tuesday that Jackson wasn’t going anywhere. “It’s all rumors. Let’s put that to rest.” But even if St. Louis was, in fact, shopping the 29-year-old runner, he almost certainly wouldn’t say it publicly.

A trade involving Williams may more likely than one for Jackson, whether it’s the Packers or another team. The Charlotte Observer cites a team source and says, “multiple playoff-contending teams called the Panthers last week to inquire about a possible trade for Williams.”

The Denver Broncos are a logical possibility to land Williams, considering they’re coached by former Panthers head coach John Fox. With veteran Willis McGahee having a mediocre start to 2012 and rookie Ronnie Hillman still developing as a player, the Broncos may be in the market for a potential feature back. And even though Williams is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry this season, he could be a nice fit with Denver’s spread attack.

Whether the Packers are interested in trading for Williams or Jackson remains to be seen. The 2012 season is widely thought to be Jackson’s last in St. Louis, so the door could still be open for a trade despite what Fisher said Tuesday.

Age shouldn’t be much of a factor in a potential trade, considering the Packers went all-in with the 29-year-old Benson to start the season.

In order to acquire Jackson, the Packers would have to pay approximately $3 million of the $7 million he’s owed this season. And also, Thompson would have to determine that Jackson is worth parting with a draft pick, despite the fact that he’ll likely be available as an unrestricted free agent next summer.