Fontenot to Continue Bennett's RBs Approach

Sick of the lockout? Packer Report continues to talk real football by talking to those who play and coach the game. In our latest exclusive, coaching offensive line and coaching running backs isn't as different as you'd think, as Jerry Fontenot explains.

Jerry Fontenot played center in the NFL for 16 seasons and had spent his last five seasons helping coach the Green Bay Packers' offensive line.

So what exactly makes him qualified to replace the esteemed Edgar Bennett as running backs coach?

"The run game, the protection game, we've all got to work together," Fontenot told Packer Report last week. "Our No. 1 job is to move the ball on the ground or to protect the quarterback, and we're all working together. When I played, I always wanted to know what the running backs were thinking. They oftentimes would ask us what we saw. There's a lot of banter back and forth and discussion and communication. So, that part of it doesn't change in my eyes. That's the way it's always been and something that we've all taken part in as far as knowing where our reads are and what can happen on any particular play. I have a great deal of respect for what Edgar Bennett did with these guys. Obviously, he played the position but still, he had a keen understanding of the offense. That's where I want to be."

Under Bennett, ball security and pass protection were the two most important things from his crew. The approach didn't lead to flashy runs or prodigious statistics but it led to victories. In 2009, Ryan Grant didn't fumble on any of his 282 carries. Brandon Jackson hasn't lost a fumble in his career. The quarterbacks almost never got hit by blitzers because Jackson and John Kuhn were coached to such a high level. It's for those reasons why James Starks had to wait and wait and wait to get his chance last season. When he did, the rookie was ready. While he wasn't perfect in pass protection, he didn't fumble on any of his 110 carries in the regular season or playoffs.

Expect that same approach from Fontenot.

"(Bennett) was the first guy I talked to and I've periodically gone up to him and sat down with him and had discussions with him on his coaching philosophies and his techniques," Fontenot said. "We've had a lot of discussions. The one thing that I'll share with you that he shared with me is that the No. 1 job for the running back is ball security, period. If you're holding onto the ball, you'll get your opportunities and good things are going to happen. The second-most important job is protect the QB because we have a special one and we have to give him as many opportunities to succeed as possible. In order to do that, we have to know what our adjustments are and we have to be able to get there and do a good job. Edgar did an outstanding job of coaching our running backs and making sure that they had a full grasp of the protection schemes. That is something that will continue."

Because of his work with the offensive line, Fontenot had a solid knowledge base about the running game. Thus, he said he's been focusing his efforts on the passing game, where one play can have any number of blitz protections and checkdown routes, depending on which defenders are coming and where the receivers are talking their routes.

So, maybe the lockout hasn't been a bad thing, but Fontenot is eager to take what he's learned and put it to practice in the meeting room and on the field.

"If I know it, it doesn't really matter," he said. "What matters is that they know it and they're able to digest what I'm giving them. That's the fun part. That's the part you get to be a teacher. I love that part of the game.

"The next phase of it for me is being on the field and watching the guys and seeing what they're seeing and looking at how we can make things better. You don't want to say that what we have is good enough. We want to challenge it and see if we can make things better."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.


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