The Green Bay Packers aren’t as strong as they were now that running back Ryan Grant has been put on injured reserve, but it isn’t time to throw in the towel just yet.
Grant may not have run for 1,200 yards in each of the past two season by accident, but the Packers have always been a pass-first team under Mike McCarthy. The Packers pass to set up the run and Grant was the beneficiary of that philosophy.
New starter Brandon Jackson won’t be asked to carry the offense, so he doesn’t need to be Superman. In fact, he probably doesn’t even need to be Ryan Grant for the Packers to be successful.
With the wealth of weapons the Packers have in the passing game, the team’s style of play probably wouldn’t change if Adrian Peterson was the team’s running back.
So while there may be a drop off talent-wise between Grant and Jackson, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Packers offense will suffer.
“It’s definitely a big drop-off,” Scouts Inc. personnel evaluator Matt Williamson said, “but I also think this is such a running-back friendly offense because of the passing game they have. You don’t need a great player there, and I don’t even think Grant was a great player. He’s a good runner who is quick to get downhill and very reliable, and those things are more than enough to be excellent in their offense.”
The coaching staff has repeatedly shown faith in Jackson. They did so again Tuesday when they filled Grant’s roster spot with Dimitri Nance, an undrafted free agent plucked from Atlanta’s practice squad.
Obviously, if the Packers didn’t think Jackson could carry the load, they would have tried to work a trade for someone like Laurence Maroney, who was dealt to Denver on Tuesday, or Marshawn Lynch, who is buried on Buffalo’s depth chart.
The coaching staff has been wrong about talent before — Allen Barbre comes to mind — but overall, McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson have built a solid roster filled with players developed in house.
Jackson now has the opportunity that players like Josh Sitton, Nick Collins, Jermichael Finley and Aaron Rodgers got before him — to go from unproven to key contributor.
There was a time not too long ago when some people were losing their minds because the Packers wanted to dump an aging veteran for a young, unproven quarterback. This situation is slightly different, but those who have no faith in Jackson only have to look to Aaron Rodgers as evidence that the Packers brain trust knows when one of their unproven players can be counted on to contribute.
The major knock on Jackson, other than being unproven as a feature back, is his injury history. He’s missed a total of 12 games in his three NFL seasons, including four last year.
If Jackson goes down this year, the Packers are in a precarious position. Fullback John Kuhn is currently the team’s No. 2 halfback. Nance, who is completely unproven at the NFL level, is the only other halfback on the roster.
Outside of an injury to Jackson, the Packers main concern has to be the offensive line, particularly tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, who had problems protecting Rodgers against the Philadelphia Eagles.
If the offensive line can’t keep Rodgers upright, the Packers won’t have to worry about a running game at all.