GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy spent the bulk of this spring focused on aerial football, but the Green Bay Packers coach said it didn’t make the run game any less important to his offense.
“I’m not joking,” McCarthy said Saturday, emphasizing his point, “running the football is A-No. 1 important in offensive football.”
With an offense run through Aaron Rodgers, it’s easy to forget how prominent the Packers' run game has been in recent years. No, they’ll never be a run-first team with a future Hall of Fame quarterback behind center, but the Packers had ranked among the league’s top half in attempts for four straight seasons entering 2016. Rodgers’ scrambling, which counts as a rush, helps the overall total.
Their run game went through a severe drought midway through last fall, a byproduct of simultaneously losing Eddie Lacy and James Starks to injuries. The Packers ranked 29th in the NFL with 395 rushes last season, their lowest rank in McCarthy’s 11 seasons as coach.
To hear McCarthy on Saturday, it was clear the coach prefers that his offense’s extreme lack of run plays doesn't continue.
“To go back and evaluate last year,” McCarthy said, “we had a segment of our season where we didn’t have a running back on our squad that played running back in training camp. So you have things that you go through it, because every game I’ve prepared to call in the National Football League, there’s a point in the game where I am determined, I want to run that damn ball. I mean, you have to run the football.
“And, by the way, we play in Green Bay, Wisconsin. So you don’t just starting running it in November. But, yeah, you have to run the football.”
Holding call: For the third straight year, kicker Mason Crosby is going to have a different holder.
Luckily for him, rookie punter Justin Vogel performed those duties for three seasons at the University of Miami and so he’s not coming in completely green at the position.
Vogel held for all seven of Crosby’s field-goal attempts Saturday. He made six of them, but they weren’t all kicked in midseason form, which may have something to do with the holds or the snaps or both.
“We’ve done a good amount of work together, I’d say,” Vogel said after practice of his work with Crosby and new long snapper Derek Hart. “We had a five-week break and that’s just time we didn’t see each other or work as a unit.
“Today was just our first time running field goal with all three of us as a full unit, plus it was a little rusty. I think overall the operation was fine. Mason was fine with it. He knows we’ve been executing well inside or before practice indoors.”
Vogel is the only punter in camp, so as long as he holds the job, Crosby will have six weeks to work with him. In the first couple days of camp, Vogel’s punting has been terrific, so there’s a chance he, Crosby and Hart will be together all season.