Smashmouth attack good for Favre

He's strapped on the green and gold for 14 seasons, yet the ammo in Brett Favre's holster is questionable. For most training camps in his Hall of Fame career, a core of proven weapons have surrounded him. Players like Sterling Sharpe, Antonio Freeman, Edgar Bennett, Dorsey Levens, Ahman Green, and Donald Driver were as reliable, etched-in-stone starters as it gets.

For Favre, the upcoming training camp will be much different.

One 4-12 disaster and a new general manager have altered Green Bay's approach, as it should. Winning teams with rock solid traditions like Green Bay don't sit back. And Ted Thompson definitely took the initiative to change the image of the Packers offense. Out is the cluttered, chuck-and-hope offense that set the team record for pass attempts in a season. In is a grinding rushing attack.

Have the changes in personnel left Favre completely unsure of whom he'll be distributing the ball to? Absolutely. But it will create a heated competition that the team has been lacking for years.

Unlike previous seasons, few starting spots will be handed out. It isn't Halloween yet and McCarthy is not instituting a welfare system. The starting running back position will be earned, and whoever wins must realize that if they falter, there's a replacement waiting in the bullpen. Yet, look for the Packers to revive the Bennett-Levens load sharing days after a decade-hiatus.

Green, Samkon Gado, and Najeh Davenport possess varying styles as coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski implements a zone-blocking scheme. Whether Green and Davenport's injuries heal in time to pick up the new offense will determine their workload. And although Green's heart and Davenport's physicality are overwhelming, Gado should be the primary back from the outset.

When Green Bay's offense switched to panic mode last year, two constants remained. Favre forced the issue (six touchdowns and 21 interceptions in the final 10 games) and Gado patiently read and exploded through running lanes (three 100-yard games in five starts). A zone-blocking system demands this quality over bulldozing (Davenport) and straight ahead speed (Green).

As the offense deteriorated around him, Gado progressed. McCarthy and his staff should have no choice but to see what Gado can do behind a retooled offensive line. When Gado entered the fold last season, the Packers were hopeless at 1-6. Maybe he's raw, but you simply don't see such burst in a 226-pound back often. He has the tools to grow into Jagodzinski's scheme. Green is aging and Davenport is injury prone, which should buoy Gado into an 18 to 22 carry per game role.

By no means should Green and Davenport gradually become afterthoughts in the offense. It may drive fantasy football owners insane, but the "backfield by committee" era has arrived.

The last five Super Bowl champions used multiple backs to punish defenses. The Willie Parker-Jerome Bettis and Michael Pittman-Mike Alstott duos may not have drawn the spotlight, but they were focal points on championship rosters.

If Green and Davenport are willing to accept part-time roles, Green Bay must adapt this philosophy. Davenport easily slides into a short yardage role circa 2004, when Philadelphia had no answer for the bruising load in the playoffs (why the Pack punted on 4th-and-short still baffles cheeseheads from Green Bay to Ghana). At full strength Green is an ideal punisher between the 40s, who can occasionally bust loose up the sideline. Okay. We don't live in Utopia. Unselfishness isn't a trait in all players. A handful of teams have aimed for this multi-back philosophy, only to infuriate the demoted starter. After Willis McGahee recovered and emerged from his torn ACL, previous starter Travis Henry orchestrated a trade to Tennessee.

Pending the prevention of another injury apocalypse and disgruntlement in the Packers locker room, Green Bay could easily boast the most potent rushing attack in the NFC North. Kevin Jones, Cedric Benson, and Chester Taylor don't exactly send shivers up defenses' spines.

For Green Bay, offensive guard is the obvious wild card. Daryn Colledge, Jason Spitz, Junius Coston, and Co. must grasp the blocking scheme fast. If they do, look out.

Gado, Green, and Davenport may delay Favre's aging and pioneer a change in the team's image simultaneously this season. As the defense vastly improves, the trio can team to replace the Packers' aerial attack with an exhausting, ball-control offense that wears down defenses. That's right. It's time to win ugly.

Let's just pray that trainer Pepper Burruss isn't a busy a guy this season.

Editor's note: Tyler Dunne is a freelance writer from Salamanca, N.Y. E-mail him at

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