Camp Preview: By Numbers at RB

We look at one key player, one darkhorse contender, one player on the bubble and provide some numbers you might not know in breaking down the running backs.

One key player: Ryan Grant. The Packers have a crowded backfield but Grant is the one and only player with a track record of being the lead dog on a weekly basis. James Starks, with 29 carries in the regular season, looked good in the playoffs but it's important to remember that he had fresh legs compared to the defenses he was running through.

One darkhorse: Brandon Jackson is an unrestricted free agent who wasn't terribly thrilled with the number of opportunities he received as the next-in-line behind Grant. After getting 18 carries after Grant went down at Philadelphia, Jackson never got more than 15 until getting 22 and 18 in back-to-back games against the Patriots and Giants late in the season. He had a total of six carries in the playoffs after Starks emerged. So, all things being equal, Jackson probably wouldn't mind a fresh start. That said, he has so much value to the Packers. He's renowned for his pass protection and ranked fourth in the entire league by catching 86 percent of the passes thrown his way (43 catches out of 50 targets). Considering the franchise is a quarterback with a history of concussions and a history of destroying blitzing defenses, Jackson's exit isn't a foregone conclusion.

One on the bubble: Quinn Johnson. With six (or is it 60?) tight ends on the roster, the Packers are stacked. They kept four last season and potentially could keep five if seventh-round pick Ryan Taylor is the special-teams standout they expect. Thus, it's almost a certainty that Green Bay won't go into the season with three fullbacks, like it has the previous two years. That puts Johnson on thin ice. His second season was good but hardly dominant, and he has no value on special teams or as a receiver.

One new face: Alex Green's opportunity to grab hold of a big role from the get-go likely was derailed by the lockout. Remember how the Packers eased Starks along last year, even after being healthy. For the Packers, ball security and pass protection are the two most important things for a running back. He'll have to prove himself. "He's a unique commodity," director of college scouting John Dorsey told Packer Report. "We like bigger backs because of those November and December days. But for a big guy, he has really soft hands and catches the ball really well. He has patience, he has vision, he has power as an inside-the-tackle runner. For a big guy, he has speed. He's an intriguing fit."

41: Rushes of 10-plus yards by the Packers last season, which tied for 22nd in the NFL.

741: Rushing yards on first down by the Packers last season, which ranked 28th in the NFL. Six individual running backs had more than that meager total.

842: Rushing yards on first down by Grant in 2009. He had 713 yards on first down in 2008. Think they missed him?

0: Number of sacks given up by Jackson on 121 plays in which his sole responsibility was pass protection, according to Packer Report's count of the sacks and Pro Football Reference's count of his snaps.

0: Number of fumbles lost by the Packers' running backs. In fact, Jackson and John Kuhn were the only running backs to put the ball on the ground, with one apiece. That's a tip of the cap to former position coach Edgar Bennett and a standard of excellence for new backfield coach Jerry Fontenot to uphold.

51.1: The Packers' success in converting third-and-short on the ground, according to STATS. That might not seem that great but it ranked 12th in the NFL.

83.3: Kuhn's success on third-and-short, according to STATS. He ranked third in the league by converting 10-of-12 chances on third-and-1 or third-and-2.

315: Rushing yards in the playoffs by Starks, the third-most by a running back in NFL postseason history. Washington's Timmy Smith had 342 yards in 1987.

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

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