Green, Other Rookie Backs Running on Empty

The Class of 2011 at running back, which includes Alex Green, has provided little return on investment for their professional teams. To illustrate that, rookie quarterback Cam Newton has almost as many rushing touchdowns as the rookie backs combined.

Despite the 253-yard rushing performance last week by Dallas' DeMarco Murray, and the possibility the third-round draft choice could eventually replace Felix Jones as the starter for the Cowboys, several personnel men are largely unimpressed by the crop of rookie tailbacks in the league.

"There's no real ‘bellcow back' in the bunch," one AFC personnel chief told The Sports Xchange's Len Pasquarelli. "They're all good players, don't get me wrong, but none of them has been gangbusters yet, you know?"

One of those rookies who definitely won't be going "gangbusters" is Green Bay Packers' third-round pick Alex Green. Green sustained a season-ending knee injury while blocking on the first kickoff return of last week's game at Minnesota.

Due to injuries and the presence of returning backs Ryan Grant and James Starks, Green had only a minor role this season. In four games, he rushed three times for 11 yards and caught a swing pass for 6 yards. After an impressive debut on special teams against the Saints – he had two blocks on Randall Cobb's touchdown return – he missed two games with an Achilles injury. He also missed time in training camp and the first preseason game with a strained quadriceps, which stunted his development because the team puts such a premium on pass protection from its backs.

Green was very much in the Packers' plans for this season, and with Grant's contract up at season's end, Green could be a major player as soon as next season, depending on the severity of the injury and the pace of his rehab following surgery. At 6 foot and 225 pounds, he has the size and running style the team covets to gain yards on bad-weather fields. His pass-catching ability also is a major asset.

"Very unfortunate for Alex," coach McCarthy said on Monday. "He was really coming on (and) we were looking for him to make an impact this year."

Of course, the lone first-round tailback in this year's draft was Mark Ingram of New Orleans, and he's splitting snaps with Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and, presumably, Chris Ivory, who's just been activated from the PUP list. In the Saints' time-share approach, Ingram leads all rookie rushers with 329 yards is on pace for just 752.

The two leading rookie rushers from 2010, LeGarrette Blount of Tampa Bay and Ivory, were both undrafted free agents. Starks, the Packers' playoff hero, was just a sixth-round selection.

But there doesn't appear to be a late-round or free agent back this year capable of putting up big numbers. Since 1992, there has been a 1,000-yard rookie rusher in every season except 2009. This could be the second time in three years.

Behind Ingram are Murray with 326 yards, Miami's Daniel Thomas (second round) with 302, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton with 266 yards and Indianapolis' Delone Carter (fourth round) with 259 yards. Of the 24 running backs who were drafted, Ingram, Murray, Thomas and Carter are the only ones with even 200 yards. Only seven have reached the 100-yard marker.

Incredibly, all rookie backs combined have rushed for nine touchdowns. Newton has seven by himself.

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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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