Green Bay Packers go with one running back in Ryan Grant

Aug. 8, 2010
Green Bay Packers Family Night scrimmage analysis
Green Bay Packers Family Night scrimmage analysis: The cornerbacks and punters were among things that caught Rob Demovsky's attention in his analysis of Saturday's scrimmage.
Packers running back Ryan Grant carries the ball during training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field on Sunday, Aug. 1, 2010. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
Packers running back Brandon Jackson carries the ball during training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field in Ashwaubenon on Friday, Aug. 6, 2010. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
Packers rookie running back Quinn Porter carries the ball during training camp at Ray Nitschke Field in Ashwaubenon on Monday, Aug. 2, 2010. Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette


Dallas was the No. 2 offense in the NFL in 2009 with the duo of Marion Barber and Felix Jones.

Miami ranked No. 4 in rushing on the legs of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

Chicago paired Chester Taylor with Matt Forte this offseason after finishing No. 29 in the league on the ground.

A growing trend around the league has teams moving away from a single featured back to an offense using two rushers to split attempts. The Green Bay Packers, on the other hand, have relied on Ryan Grant for three consecutive seasons and are content to do so again in 2010.

Grant rushed for 1,253 yards in 2009, the sixth-highest single-season mark in franchise history. His 1,203 yards in 2008 rank No. 8 while 312 attempts that year are the fourth most in team history.

The term "workhorse" may be an understatement.

“A big part of being the starter at this level is your durability,” said running backs coach Edgar Bennett, whose 316 attempts in 1995 is the third most in team history. “A guy that we can count on, (that) is dependable. (Grant) lines up and plays every Sunday and practices throughout the week.

“You want a guy that you can count on, can be explosive, that can break tackles. He’s provided that for us.”

Grant has started all but two games over the last two years and was responsible for 64.4 percent of the carries last year. Four other halfbacks combined for 84 attempts all year.

Few teams, however, make it through a season with just one back, and that’s where Brandon Jackson comes into play.

The Packers selected James Starks out of Buffalo in the sixth round of the draft, but the rookie has a history of injuries and a bum hamstring has caused him to miss some offseason workouts and all of training camp. Undrafted free agent Quinn Porter arguably has been the surprise of camp, but he is still a rookie. Kregg Lumpkin spent 2009 on the practice squad.

Jackson, the third-down back who has a combined 157 carries in three years, is one snap away from being the primary rusher on the roster.

“I feel like I carry a heavy load, too,” Jackson said. “I do feel like I’m ready to take some (of the load) off Ryan.

“I feel like when Ryan’s bounding the ball, I can come in and take some pressure off him.”

Porter has become the wild card of camp. The rookie from Stillman College is trying to make the team as an undrafted free agent, and has shown quick feet, the ability to change direction without losing much speed and good vision. There’s been a toughness about Porter that few expected.

“He jumps out, every practice,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Everybody’s excited about it. He’s shown some very natural run instincts.

“He’s a young man that so far is taking advantage of his opportunities.”

Those opportunities have been increased by the absence of Starks.

Porter’s journey to Green Bay began with the Lancaster, Calif., native wanting to attend the University of Southern California, but grades issues ended those aspirations.

A chance meeting at church put things in motion for Porter to sign with Stillman and eventually rush for 2,788 yards and 24 touchdowns in 37 games at the Tuscaloosa, Ala., school. He added 887 receiving yards and 12 more touchdowns and even punted as a sophomore and junior.

Porter will have to be a special teams factor to make the team, and he has been inconsistent fielding punts, but he has turned heads with his ground game.

“The Packers didn’t call me for nothing,” Porter said. “I’m out here trying to make a statement. Showing up and showing out.

“It’s definitely not easy. It’s all about patience and experience. I’ve been playing running back all my life, so I know what the trenches feel like — linebackers crashing down, (defensive backs) pursuing, the line shifting. Read their blocks and you will see daylight.”

The Packers still are putting a lot of faith in Grant staying healthy, regardless of how comfortable they are with the depth behind him. There’s just not much experience between Jackson (three starts), Lumpkin (one career attempt), Starks (rookie without any training camp practices) and Porter (undrafted rookie).

“I want to be that guy, I feel like I’ve been that guy, I want to continue to be that guy,” Grant said. “But earned. You’ve got to earn it every year.

“I want the other guys to have the same feeling. That competitive nature as an individual helps the group. As much as I take pride in my durability, anything can happen. And guys have to be ready to step up, so I’m going to hold them accountable.”

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