“The running game nowadays, you need to have a couple of guys that can tote it,” Redskins HC Jay Gruden told Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro on ESPN 980 earlier this week. “Sixteen games is a long time, that’s a lot of games, a lot of carries, that’s a lot of hits on these running backs.”
Gruden said that he would like to split up the carries more than he did last year, when he went with what was mostly a one-back attack. Alfred Morris had 265 rushing attempts. The other tailbacks on the roster, Roy Helu, Silas Redd, and Chris Thompson, combined for 59 rushing attempts. That is 82 percent of the carries for Morris, 18 percent for the rest.
In his three years as the offensive coordinator with the Bengals, Gruden spread the workload in different ways in different seasons. In 2012 he had BenJarvus Green-Ellis take 80 percent of the tailback rushing attempts. But in 2011 it was a 70-30 split between Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott. And in 2013 Cincinnati drafted Giovani Bernard and gave him 170 carries to 220 for Green-Ellis (that’s a 56-44 split in percentage terms).
So maybe splitting up the running back carries isn’t so much a matter of philosophy for Gruden as much as doing things the way the quality of his stable of running backs dictates. He told Sheehan and Loverro that he will see who can earn the carries that Morris won’t get.
“I think you give Alfred the bulk of [the carries] and then Matt Jones comes in there, it could be Chris Thompson, it could be Silas Redd,” he said. “We’ll see how camp goes to see who deserves the carries, who’s going to get the carries. They have to prove then can protect the ball, No. 1, and prove they can pick up blitzes, No. 2 and then they will get some carries behind Alfred.”
We're still expecting Morris to see the vast majority of the carries, but this is something to keep in mind if another back flashes in the preseason. In his first three seasons, Morris has finished #5, #14 and #13 in standard formats. He's more of a RB2 in PPR leagues (#7, #19, #17) since he has only averaged 0.8 receptions per game in his career. Bill Callahan's arrival (as offensive line coach) should help the effectiveness of the team's running game, which in turn will help Morris's fantasy production. He's a solid value and a safe pick in the 3rd/4th round of early PPR drafts. He should go in the 2nd/3rd in standard leagues.
The most likely scenario for Packer's RB Eddie Lacy’s return is that he would sit out Sunday, get an additional week of rest with the Packers’ Week 4 bye and return for the home game against Detroit on Oct. 6.
“We’re going to use both backs,” said Clements. “When Eddie’s healthy he’s going to get his reps and James will be ready to get his reps.”
Under McCarthy, the Packers have used both a running-back-by-committee approach as well as feeding one player most of the carries as they did with Cedric Benson last season before he sustained a season-ending injury. It certainly seems like this could go back to being some sort of split, especially if Starks takes advantage of the situation again in Week 3 against the Bengals.
After Bengals RB Giovanni Bernard was selected, special assistant to the head coach/running backs coach Hue Jackson summed up his value like this: “We’re looking for a guy who would fit what we do, who can catch it and run with it. But you also have to be able to pass protect and be multifaceted, and the young man has that skill set."
Look further into what Jackson said, and find a clue as to what the Bengals now value. Gone are the days of coveting a back whose value lies almost solely as a rusher—Cedric Benson, Rudi Johnson, Corey Dillon—and in is an era where backs must excel in the passing game as well, whether it be receiving or protecting the quarterback.
And that’s not to say a back like Bernard isn’t capable of carrying the rushing load, if called upon.
“Having evaluated him and watched every game he played this year and had a chance to work him out, and having spent a lot of time with him,” Jackson said of Bernard, “he has that skill set where I think he could play and be an every down player.”
We don't believe this will happen in 2013, at least not at the start of the season. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a solid runner and he's going to get his 200-250 carries. Bernard will definitely eat into BJGE's workload, however.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 6:06pm
Packers HC Mike McCarthy was confident in proclaiming to the media in “big letters” as OTAs wrapped up that Green Bay’s ground game would improve in 2013.
Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin are the drafted RBs, with Angelo Pease an undrafted rookie RB. DuJuan Harris, Alex Green and James Starks are still developing. There aren’t enough handoffs, or roster spots to go around, and every player involved knows it.
“It’s going to be very competitive,” Green said of the upcoming training camp. “Every back on the roster is capable of being a contributor to the offense, from the drafted to free agents. It’s going to be good for everybody. It’s going to push everybody in the backfield to get better.”
Himself included, Green believes. Now that he’s another year removed from reconstructive knee surgery, the third-round pick in 2011 may be the biggest wildcard in this competition.
Green got his chance to be the feature back last season when Cedric Benson was lost for the year in Week 5, but Green’s rebuilt knee wasn’t ready for the workload. He finished with a team-high 464 yards but averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. Green doesn't make it on our RB list as we give the edge to Lacy as having the most value of the GB backs once the season starts. Lacy has and ADP of the seventh round and could present great value if he develops.
Thursday, April 25, 2013, 2:12pm
Packers HC Mike McCarthy spoke with reporters about his plans for the backfield (as paraphrased by beat writer Tom Silverstein): "Changes will play to the strengths we have. Wish we had [DuJuan Harris] earlier. Couldn't just put him in there, lost of stress on backs...Felt great with DuJuan in the backfield. He's going to play for us next year...Would like to get into a 1-2 punch with the backs. It really helps if you can keep doing it with same guys. [James Starks], [Alex Green] weren't 100%."
Thursday, February 14, 2013, 12:30pm
From DuJuan Harris's very first carry – an 11-yard run against the Detroit Lions on Dec. 9, on which he ran over safety Ricardo Silva – in a Packers’ uniform on Dec. 9 after a practice-squad call-up, he played bigger than his height. He finished the regular season with 34 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns, a 4.6-yard average that was the best of the Packers’ cadre of running backs. In the playoffs, when he was designated as the team’s lead back, he carried 28 times for 100 yards and two TDs. Whether or not he can serve as an every-down back, however, is up for debate. Running backs coach Alex Van Pelt did not rule out the possibility, however, while also suggesting that it’s not in the Packers’ plans to have one running back carry the load.
“I don’t see why he couldn’t. Do we need him to be one? I don’t think we do,” Van Pelt said. “It would be tough for him to see a body of work for the season, if he wore down later in the season. But he was great for us when we had him. He was fresh and was quite the change-up from what we have in the room. But would we need him for every down? I don’t think we would. If we had a [Cedric Benson] back, [James Starks] and DuJuan, I think you would have to give everybody some touches.”
Wednesday, January 30, 2013, 2:16pm
Consider Packers RB Cedric Benson a solid backup plan. DuJuan Harris will certainly be back next season in Green Bay, while the Packers seem intent on giving James Starks one more season to prove himself and stay off the injury report. Alex Green, who played this season just a year removed from a serious knee injury, should be back for his third season in Green Bay. That means Benson's return to the Packers will likely be decided based on whether the team drafts a running back in April. If general manager Ted Thompson does draft a running back, that new player, along with Harris, Starks and Green, will be enough bodies at the position. That's the most likely scenario. But, if Thompson can't find good value on a running back in the draft, Benson could be the veteran on a cheap contract who steps in if the younger players don't perform well.
As it stands, we believe that Harris will emerge as the top back of this group in 2013.
Monday, January 28, 2013, 2:48pm
There is virtually no chance the Packers keep Ryan Grant. They didn’t want him last season and only signed him in December out of desperation due to injuries. Meanwhile, the Packers have nothing to lose by offering Cedric Benson another one-year, minimum salary contract. If he bombs in training camp the Packers walk away no worse for the wear.
Friday, January 18, 2013, 6:03pm
DuJuan Harris showed a lot of potential, but the Packers aren't blind to the fact he's 5-7 and 208 pounds. He held up well averaging 10 carries a game, but that's a far cry from the 250 to 300 carries he'd get as a lead back.
"You'd have to see a body of work over an entire season, whether he wore down later in the season," Van Pelt said. "He was great for us when we had him. He was fresh. Quite a change from what we had in the room."
It's doubtful the Packers will take another chance on Cedric Benson, who signed during training camp and played in just five games before being put on injured reserve with a Lisfranc fracture in his foot. Ryan Grant was a short-term addition who deserved a ton of credit for the job he did both on the field and in the locker room, but he is not the future.
James Starks has been as unreliable as a back could be despite possessing tremendous talent. He has missed 26 of 48 regular-season games because of injury and was no help down the stretch. His salary, assuming he has met playing time qualifiers, will jump to $1.323 million, which is equal to the lowest restricted free agent tender in 2013.
The Packers may not be willing to pay that given his health history.
Our money is on Harris returning as the lead back, though the Packers may elect to draft RB or sign someone in free agency.
Benson, who suffered a Lisfranc foot injury in the Week 5 loss to the Colts, had been the Packers' designated player to return as part of the league's new reserve exemption rule. He would've been eligible to play next week against the Lions, after sitting out the mandatory eight weeks.
The Packers did not reveal their plans for running back Cedric Benson, who remains on the injured reserve list designated for return. Benson had an doctor’s appointment on Wednesday, but McCarthy said he did not have the results of that exam. There’s growing concern that Benson’s Lisfranc foot sprain will not allow him to return this season.
Owners waiting on Benson can probably cut bait. It doesn't look like he'll be back in time for the fantasy playoffs.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012, 7:40pm
Tuesday, November 20, 2012, 10:28am
While the 6-foot-2, 218-pound James Starks saw his heaviest workload in two-plus NFL seasons during Sunday’s 24-20 win over Detroit, the Packers still plan to incorporate Alex Green into their backfield rotation.
After having three consecutive 20-carry performances last month, Green was relegated to no carries and only six offensive snaps on Sunday as the Packers decided to put the ball into the hands of Starks, who rushed 25 times for 74 yards.
“As far as our running game, we left a lot of production on the field was my conclusion after going through the tape and going through the grading sessions with the coaches,” coach Mike McCarthy said.
The Packers haven't been happy with either back, so that's why it will likely be a committee this week against the Giants. Green could play on third downs while Starks could get early down work, but neither back is really worth starting in your lineup outside of deeper leagues. Cedric Benson is a few weeks away from returning.
Saturday, November 17, 2012, 12:54pm
“I’m kind of looking and thinking the Bears game,” Benson said following practice on Friday.
“Cedric had the opportunity to have some testing done (recently), and everything’s positive. His rehab has picked up,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
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