Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Packers' running game takes a hit

The first game of the NFL season took its toll on a number of teams. But the one we care about is the Green Bay Packers. DE Cullen Jenkins had multiple fractures in his hand and could play the entire season with a cast. Back up DE Justin Harrell tore an ACL and is done for the season after being placed on injured reserve yesterday.

Today, however, it was learned that the ankle injury to RB Ryan Grant was more serious than first thought. He sustained ligament damage and, because of the uncertainty of his return time, it was determined to also place Grant on injured reserve, effectively ending his season.

This leaves Brandon Jackson as the primary running back, with FB/RB John Kuhn as the main back up. Rather than working a trade as many thought might happen to bring in an experienced tailback, GM Ted Thompson has opted instead to sign RB Dimitri Nance, a 5-foot-10, 219-pound rookie, from Atlanta’s practice squad. Nance was undrafted out of Arizona State where he received honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors as a senior. He lead the team in rushing for two straight seasons, rushing for 795 yards and six touchdowns in his senior year. He ran the 40- yard dash in 4.63 seconds, had a 33-inch vertical jump, hit 9' 6" on the broad jump, and bench pressed 19 times at his pro day in March. Obviously, he's a developmental player at this stage and a body just in case something else happens to affect running back depth.

All during training camp head coach Mike McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson were touting Jackson's progress as a running back. He certainly seemed to show a bit more of that power in relief of Grant versus the Eagles. Now he'll have to show that a lot more. Some area sports reporters have said that it seemed as if Jackson finally "got it" this year, as he seemed to be a bit more professional in the approach he took during the offseason and during camp. Maybe maturity will translate into success on the field. The coaching staff and management of the Packers seem to be counting on that. The fans have to, as well.

One of the other personnel moves that happened as result of the injuries Sunday was that the Pack re-signed DE Jarius Wynn to fill Harrell's spot. Wynn was a casualty of the last roster cuts. He was with the team last year and, in comments aired by defensive coordinator Dom Capers, that seemed to be one of the primary factors in re-signing Wynn: he was familiar with the system and could be plugged right in to the scheme without any learning curve. Makes sense.

But back to Grant...he posted the following on his Twitter page: "Guess everyone has heard the news..frustrating, disappointing, all the normal emotions..there was a chance with surgery that I come back... This season but I would miss too many weeks and put the team in a bind roster wise.. It was more severe than initially thought during game.. but I just have to move forward and get it right. Anyone who knows me, understands that my spirits WILL stay high..and I will return even better, stronger.. That's how I operate.. " (Oh, by the way, you can follow this blog on Twitter, as well, by clicking on the link in the upper righthand column or by just going here.)

Come back better and stronger, Ryan. I think many fans will finally realize through your absence what you have brought to the offense over the last three years in particular: the fourth best rushing yardage in the entire NFL.

You can read a truly great concise analysis (by Green Bay Press-Gazette sports writer Mike Vandermause) of the situation with Grant and Jackson, and the Packers' probable decision process, here.