Revamped running game highlights start of Packers camp

Running back Alex Green. Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Revamped running game highlights start of Packers camp

By John Rehor, Packers contributor. CREATED Jul 25, 2013

GREEN BAY - When Packers coach Mike McCarthy made the proclamation, “We’ll be better; I promise you. You can write that down” about his team's running game, many viewed it as a sign of change for the better.

The Packers have had an explosive offense for years now, one based primarily on the passing game. Since 2006, the year McCarthy became head coach in Green Bay, the Packers have finished no lower than 9th in passing yards.

On the flip side, 14th is the best the Packers have been able to finish in the running game during McCarthy’s tenure as coach.

Since losing Ryan Grant to a season ending injury in 2010, the Packers have relied on a group effort to try and establish some semblance of a running game.

Seeing that something had to be done to solidify the running game and take the burden off Aaron Rodgers and the passing game, Ted Thompson saw his opportunity during the draft and retooled the entire backfield in one swift stroke.
By drafting Eddie Lacy in the second round and Jonathan Franklin in the fourth round, the Packers let it be known to the rest of the league that the days of them airing it out were over, and a solid running game was going to be added to their offensive arsenal again.

But saying the running game is going to be better and it actually being better may be more difficult than it appears.

Lacy is built like a bruiser. The type of running back who can grind out yards and wear down opposing defenses, something the Packers have desperately missed for years.

However, Lacy is only a rookie, and it remains to be seen whether he can withstand the grueling punishment that comes with the NFL.

Franklin could be the all-purpose back who would add all kinds of options to the offense. A good runner and a very good receiver out of the backfield, he would add another dimension to the offense.

But similar to Lacy, Franklin is a rookie, still learning the ways of the NFL. It remains to be seen whether his promise will live up to expectations.

DuJuan Harris was electrifying when on the field last year. The former car salesman took his opportunity and ran with it-literally.

Averaging a solid 4.6 yards per carry, Harris is like a boulder plowing into and around the offensive line.

But at only 5’8”, it remains to be seen whether he has the stamina to take the beating his position dictates for an entire season.

Alex Green is entering a critical year for his career. The former third round draft choice blew out his knee as a rookie, and then struggled upon returning last season.

He wore down, as pain returned to his repaired knee, which ultimately led to his giving way to Harris. He needs to show continued improvement from his injury if he is going to remain on the Packers.

James Starks is probably down to his final chance. His sparkling run during the 2010 playoffs gave hope that he was going to be the answer at running back. But a string of injuries has limited his ability to stay on the field. The 2013 training camp is most likely his final shot at sticking with the Packers.
What about Angelo Pease? Where does this rookie sit in the mix of running backs currently on the roster?

Add to the questions surrounding the assortment of running backs a revamped offensive line, and the vow McCarthy made that the running game will be better may still has some holes in it.

The Packers need to run the ball better. Anything they can do to make the offense less one dimensional and prevent Rodgers from taking any more punishment can only help.

But it is going to be a work in progress until proven otherwise.

John Rehor (@jrehor on Twitter) is a writer at and co-host of Cheesehead Radio.

Click here for a full list of training camp practices which are open to the public.