Monday, September 03, 2007

Back to the backs

It's not rocket science. A playoff and championship caliber team needs a top-notch defense, an offensive line that can protect the QB and open running lanes, wide receivers and tight ends that can catch and advance the ball, a consistent if not great quarterback, and at least one running back that is a legitimate threat to the opposing defense whenever he touches the ball.

In the case of the 2007 Packers, it would appear going into the season that all of those criteria are in place except the last. Here is who the Packers will have available to them at running back for the opener: Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn, both rookies, and Ryan Grant, newly acquired from the Giants in a cut-down day trade. Vernand Morency, who was scheduled to be the starter before an injury sidelined him for most of camp, may be available in a limited capacity if he gets cleared to play. Jackson himself is coming off a concussion. Noah Herron, who became a reliable third-down back for the Pack last season and may have started this game given the alternatives, was injured in Thursday's game against the Titans and has been placed on injured reserve for the season. As for fullbacks, the Packers have rookie Korey Hall (converted from his linebacker position at Boise State) and John Kuhn who was claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend.

As some might argue, many backs who made names for themselves in the NFL were unknowns at one time. If this is the case, then the Pack will have more than its share of opportunities for a back to make a name for himself this season. Fans can only hope so.

For if the 2007 Packers fail to make the playoffs, as many pundits are predicting, one of the primary faults will lie with GM Ted Thompson's failure to adequately address the running back situation. Granted, a lot of things can happen within a season to disrail even the best teams. But you want to enter the season with the best ammo you can get. Here's what Thompson is quoted as saying on the subject: "It is what it is. You just have to keep going, and you try to pick the best guys for your team, where you are at that particular time. So that's kind of where we are. But at the end of the day, we feel pretty good about this group."

Oooookkkkkaaaaayyyyy. If you say so, Ted.

But football ain't rocket science. It's pretty basic when you get right down to it. And if any one of those basic elements is missing, there will be problems. It is sad that, in the remaining playing years of the greatest quarterback of all time, Thompson hasn't seen fit to provide him with the complete arsenal of offensive weapons to get back to the Super Bowl. Now, maybe one of these unknowns in the backfield will have a breakout year. We have to hope that's the case. But it sure isn't a given, or probably even remotely likely. And while the Packers' #1 pick, Justin Harrell, may well develop into a dominant player, given the depth on the defensive line even before the draft, one still has to question why the Pack didn't pick up one of the top running backs available at #16. That may be a decision that haunts the Packers long beyond this season.