Running game gets cold shoulder

Packers coach Mike McCarthy has talked all off-season how his team will be committed to the run. But through two weeks, the Packers have passed often. PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence says the release of fullback Vonta Leach last week has left Green Bay's backfield with a diluted rushing attack because it is without its best blocker.

Mike McCarthy, during his July 27 news conference on the eve of training camp: "They'll boo you when you keep running, but it's a commitment, a long-term commitment. People sometimes have a tendency to get away from the run game early in the game. You need to commit to it. That's not to say you start every game with 10 runs, but you have to make a commitment over the course of the season if you think it's going to work."

McCarthy's first-half play calling against the New Orleans Saints, even though the Packers led almost the entire time: 22 passes, seven rushes. I'm not breaking any ground here when I say the Packers can't run the football. New Orleans' defensive front seven doesn't exactly scare anyone, and still, run-first McCarthy didn't bother to run first, second or at all.

That's what made the recent release of fullback Vonta Leach all the more curious. Leach's release was lost in the controversial signing of Koren Robinson, so little was made of the transaction. But his absence was especially noticeable against the Saints.

Of all of general manager Ted Thompson's moves, getting rid of Leach when instead he could have released one of his four tight ends makes the least sense.

Yes, Leach had hands that seemingly were coated in concrete. But, boy, he could block. And that's the Packers' problem. They can't block. William Henderson is a leader, fan favorite and a reliable receiver, but his blocking has slipped the past couple of seasons. He isn't in Leach's league when it comes to knocking heads with linebackers, which perhaps explains why McCarthy so quickly gave up on the run game against New Orleans.

In Week 1, with Leach starting for an injured Henderson, Ahman Green ran wild against the Chicago Bears. In Week 2, with Henderson starting and Leach no longer on the roster, Green did nothing against the Saints.

Of course, this is anything but a black-and-white comparison. The Bears' defensive scheme, especially with a commanding lead, gave Green the chance to pile up rather meaningless rushing yards. Against the Saints, with Green averaging less than three yards a carry and with Henderson playing barely a dozen snaps, the Packers barely bothered to run the ball at all.

If Leach were on the roster, would McCarthy have been even a little more balanced in his run-pass ratio? Only he can answer that question.

Regardless, the Packers are a team in need of an identity, in need of a consistent offensive game plan. Preaching the running game from Day 1 and then putting it in mothballs does more than send the wrong message to a young team. It makes you wonder if the coach and general manager are on the same page.


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