Running Game Riding Shotgun with Green

With Alex Green at running back, the offense relied heavily on a relatively new wrinkle against the Texans on Sunday night. The running game wasn't explosive but it did its job by keeping Houston's defense from focusing too much on Aaron Rodgers.

For Alex Green, Sunday night was a long time coming.

The Green Bay Packers' third-round pick in 2011, Green entered the game at Houston with 15 career carries. His rookie season was derailed by a torn ACL. His second season was put on hold when the team traded for workhorse veteran Cedric Benson.

About 50 weeks removed from the knee injury and with Benson on the injured list, Green finally got his chance to show what he's capable of being.

The Man.

Green rushed 22 times for 66 yards against the Texans. That's hardly the stuff of legend, but considering the circumstances — namely, the lack of experience and the competition he was running against — Green provided exactly what the Packers needed.

"I thought he did well, I really did," running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said on Thursday. "I thought he was physical, I thought he ran the ball hard. He wasn't tentative in the hole at all, he hit it full speed, 100 percent downhill. That's what we were looking for. It wasn't always clean runs but, at the end of the day, he had a couple 9-, 10-yarders in there, so that's an effective day running the football."

As Rams coach Jeff Fisher pointed out in his conference call with Packers beat reporters, Green Bay's offense unveiled a "slightly different personnel grouping" against the Texans.

While the shotgun running game hardly is anything new, it was a staple of the offense at Houston. Of Green's first 16 carries — up to the Packers taking a commanding 35-17 lead — 10 came out of the shotgun. Green turned those attempts into 31 yards, including runs of 9 and 10 yards. Even with a pedestrian 3.1-yard average, those shotgun runs had an impact. Frequently, Aaron Rodgers would put the ball in Green's belly, pull it out and throw the ball, that split-second of doubt creating holes in the Texans' secondary. Four of Rodgers' career-high six touchdown passes came from the shotgun.

On first-and-10, Green carried the ball 14 times for 38 yards, including 11 carries for 36 yards before the Packers took the air out of the ball after taking the 35-17 lead. Again, that's hardly the stuff of legend, but Green was stopped for a loss just once and kept the Packers in good second-down situations by gaining at least 3 yards on six of those first 11 first-down carries.

"In the first half, we did a lot of good things," left guard T.J. Lang said. "He was getting us 5, 6, 7, 8 yards and getting those tough plays and really making that defense suck up a little bit and respect that run game. They can't afford to give up 7, 8 yards a play. They have to respect that run game sooner or later, and I think that helped out a lot with getting a lot of those big plays against the secondary with Aaron and the receivers. Any time we can stay balanced like that, it allows us to open up the playbook a lot more."

According to ProFootballFocus.com, Green got 41 of his 66 yards after contact.

"I think he ran the ball really well," Rodgers said. "He's got a good running style, he's downhill. He gets extra yards after contact. I think he ran the ball well enough to give us balance last week, and I think he's going to continue to get better. For him, it's just about confidence. It's about getting reps in the game and getting carries. The more carries he gets, I think the better he's going to be for us and the more confident and the more great runs you're going to see."

Green figures to get better with experience. Last season, he had just three carries before the injury, and he was kept in mothballs with just three carries in the first four-plus games of this season until Benson's foot injury at Indianapolis.

"He did a good job," Van Pelt said of following his blockers. "I didn't think there were any cuts that he missed. He saw the hole, he hit the right hole, as opposed to the Indy game, where I think he was a little more juiced to get in there and missed a couple of cuts that I thought he could have stuck it in a different spot. This game, I thought he was right on."

Green called his performance a "good starting point."

"It felt good to relieve a little tension I've been holding in for the past few months with rehabbing and waiting and things like that," Green said. "It felt good to let some of that go and just play the game."

Green had plenty to prove. Outside of Brandon Jackson (second round, 2007), general manager Ted Thompson's other running backs were late-round additions (DeShawn Wynn, seventh round, 2007; James Starks, sixth round, 2010). With that kind of investment, the Packers need Green to be a difference-maker.

Beyond the team, Green had plenty to prove to himself.

"You can say, ‘I know I can do this,' but to show it to yourself, it has a little different meaning," he said. "Because now, it's for certain – you know you can do it, because you've done it. You just proved it. That felt good, going through that. Getting that confidence and just having the faith, really, to stick with it and make it pay off. I just have to keep working. I know hard work pays off. I'm proof of that. Just keep working, keep getting better and see how far I can take this thing."


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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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