Camp Preview: Top Concern at RB

Edgar Bennett, the underappreciated leader of the backfield, has been replaced as running backs coach by Jerry Fontenot. Those are big shoes to fill considering Bennett's backs didn't lose a fumble on a running play in either of the last two seasons.

Ryan Grant was taken for granted.

After sustaining a season-ending ankle injury in the second quarter of the Week 1 game at Philadelphia, the Green Bay Packers' running game evaporated and the weight of the offense fell on Aaron Rodgers and his receivers. Only then was Grant's value to the offense appreciated by outside observers.

Will Edgar Bennett be taken for granted, too?

In the court of public opinion, the head coach gets too much credit or blame and the assistant coaches get almost none. That's a shame because Bennett, the former running backs coach who now is mentoring the receivers, was a maestro for getting his players to do the little things with supreme efficiency. His backs almost never were spectacular but they also never lost games. In 2010, his running backs fumbled two times and didn't lose either of them. In 2009, his running backs fumbled two times and again didn't lose either of them. In the passing game, Brandon Jackson hasn't allowed a sack in either of the last two seasons. Quinn Johnson and John Kuhn also didn't allow a sack last season; they were three of the top seven backs in the entire league in terms of allowing sacks and pressures, according to a study by Pro Football Reference.

New running backs coach Jerry Fontenot, whose entire career was spent playing and coaching the offensive line, says he'll follow Bennett's mantra. Whether the message hits home, however, remains to be seen with a backfield that could have the relatively unproven James Starks and rookie Alex Green playing major roles.

"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," Fontenot said of Bennett. "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."


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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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