Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Now a Herron Wades In

Yes, I know that the real heron -- which according to Merriam-Webster is "any of various long-necked wading birds (family Ardeidae) with a long tapering bill, large wings, and soft plumage" (your word of the day, kids) -- is spelled with one "r" while the Herron I'm talking about has two "r"s. That, and this Herron is a second-year running back with the Packers and not a long-necked wading bird. One can carry the ball the other...well...I ever seen one of those birds? They probably could carry the ball. (Hey, is there a rule against that? Could Favre hand the ball off to a bird, have it fly over the line, and land in the end zone? Would that count? Man, the possibilities!)

But I digress...there's an article in today's online Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about Noah Herron, who the Pack picked off the Steeler's practice squad last November to fill one of the spots left by the ever-increasing number of injured Packers running backs. While Herron missed being involved in the Steelers Super Bowl win -- c'mon, is it that big of a deal? -- he says he had a chance to play, get some exposure for his abilities, and maybe become a regular fixture of the Pack's offense. In other words, here's a young man who takes a long-term view. Of course, in the case of most NFL running backs that may only last about four years but, still, it is nice to see such a perspective.

Anyone who watched Big Ten football in the early 2000s, remembers Herron being a key part of Northwestern's offense. In 2004, as the featured back, he averaged 115 yards per game rushing and 29 yards per game receiving. Not too shabby. He was -- is -- a smart, powerful, versatile back. He has good hands, and has enough of the "quicks" to be effective in the open field. One of the other things going for him is that Northwestern used a zone blocking scheme. In other words, he has a bit of an advantage over the other backs participating in the OTAs now given the Pack's move to zone blocking. As a result, with Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport still out until training camping camp, Herron has been getting some work with the #1 offense, apparently supplanting fan fave Samkon Gado for the time being. Because he has been able to pick up the offense a bit more quickly, he is getting a chance to show what he can do. And, according to the article, Coach McCarthy likes what he sees, having singled Herron out for praise a few times already.

As we all saw last year, you can never have enough good running backs. If Herron is able to be as solid a contributor for the Packers as he was for Northwestern, it could be quite a backfield: Green, Davenport, Henderson, Gado, Herron...and perhaps a surprise or two. Now, just keep those fingers crossed that the injury bugaboo which hit so hard last year won't repeat itself again this year. This could be a good offense, folks. If everyone is able to stay healthy.

Here's the article if you care to read more.