Give Green the rock!

Pro Bowl running back not being used enough in offense

Ahman Green has played three games this season and the Green Bay Packers running back has yet to clear 60 yards, let alone reach 100.

Because of this, many observers who cover the Packers on day-to-day basis and those who are "armchair" quarterbacks believe the eighth-year player is losing the tread on his tires. In other words, he's slowing down.

After watching Green, listening about Green and reading about Green the conclusion I come to about the franchise's second all-time leading rusher is he's not slowing down as much as people think.

Yes, he has just 170 yards on 47 carries with no TDs for a 3.6 average. His career average entering this season was 4.7. That fact points to Green, who is on pace for a Packers career-low 907 yards, is slowing down.

However, Green's main backup, Najeh Davenport, who sported a fat 5.1 career average entering this season, is averaging just 2.9 yards on 14 carries this season for a grand total of 41 yards. I guess in his fourth season, Davenport is over the hill.

The bottom line in the Packers' running game. Can it be called a running game when it goes next to nowhere? Green's numbers reflect a number of things wrong with the ground game.

At the age of 28 Green could be slowing down. He's not one to dodge would-be tacklers, he would rather run them over. Still, he's not slowing down as much as people think.

The offensive line clearly isn't where it was last season, or the preceding four seasons. Gone are guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle, who played like Pro Bowl players year in and year out.

In their place is seventh-round pick Will Whitticker and free agent Adrian Klemm. This twosome isn't near the Rivera-Wahle combo. Think of the replacements for a moment. Whitticker was one round from being a rookie free agent, while Klemm has been mediocre at best.

Furthermore, center Mike Flanagan hasn't been the same this season after suffering a knee injury last season.

So, if the Packers' interior offensive line was a 10 last season, this season it's more like a 5. The holes have been few and far between, leaving Green no other option than to bang into a pile of players with nowhere to go.

Also, what about fullback William Henderson? A year after going to the Pro Bowl, he's splitting time with Vonta Leach. If Henderson was performing at a Pro Bowl level, would this happen?

No. But it is and it's affecting Green's production.

Another problem with the Packers' running game is Green is averaging just 15.7 carries per game. Over a full season that averages out to 191 carries. Since Green became the Packers' featured ball carrier in the first half of the 2000 season, he has carried the ball between 259 times (last season) and 355 (2003), when he set the franchise rushing record with 1,883 yards. He also has averaged 1,370 yards per season.

Green may not be getting the ball enough. A perfect example of getting the ball enough was watching "Cadillac" Williams against the Packers. The Buccaneers rookie was contained through three quarters, carrying 23 times for 79 yards. Then in the fourth quarter, with the Bucs ahead, Williams pumped up his tires and ran 14 times for 79 yards. As the saying goes, running backs get better the more they carry the ball. This was a prime example.

Green, who is 1,189 yards shy of Jim Taylor's club record of 8,207 rushing yards, has not been able to carry the ball a lot, because for the first time in his Packers career he's on a team which trails more often than a caboose. With that in mind, the running game gets scrapped for the pass.

Before I join the club which says Green has slowed down, I want to first see the Packers give him a chance, meaning more than 20 carries, and see what happens. Of course, that means the Packers need to get a second-half lead. That'll happen some day, right?

With the offensive line as it is, I'm not expecting the same performance Green gave in 2003, when he was as good as any back in the NFL, but I think he could improve on what he's done so far. There's no way he has fallen as quickly as some suggest.

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at

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