Henderson on the hot seat

Newcomer Brandon Miree has a chance to unseat longtime starter William Henderson at fullback. Henderson has had a tough start to the season, and was ineffective Sunday at Detroit.

The saying goes that desperate times mean desperate measures.

With the Packers desperate to kick-start a running game that has struggled to gain 2.6 yards per carry the last two games — that's 2.3 yards if you take away Donald Driver's end-around against New Orleans -— the Green Bay coaching staff has thrown open the competition at fullback.

That means 12-year veteran William Henderson, a stalwart in the starting lineup since his second season, 1996, could be unseated by Brandon Miree, who was promoted from the practice squad on Tuesday.

"They told William and me to just get out there this week in practice, and whoever does better will start," Miree said.

Henderson, who missed Week 1 while coming back from preseason knee surgery, played in only about a dozen snaps during the Week 2 game against New Orleans and about 25 last week at Detroit.

Henderson struggled against the Lions. On the Packers' first four offensive series, he was the lead blocker on six rushes that netted a mere 7 yards, including three plays that went for 0, 0 and minus-1 yard. A couple of times, he looked unsure of himself, which may not be surprising as he has to reprogram himself after a career operating in the West Coast offense's traditional running style. Other times, however, he got stood up in the hole, and once he ran past the would-be tackler.

If nothing else, Miree gives the Packers a better No. 2 option than tight end David Martin, who's been taking snaps at fullback in a reserve role since Vonta Leach was released after the season opener. Martin was as ineffective as Henderson as a lead blocker against Detroit, which isn't surprising since he's new to the role.

Miree, a seventh-round draft pick by Denver in 2004, has never taken a regular-season snap. He spent all of his rookie season in injured reserve and last season on the practice squad.

He has, however, spent two seasons immersed in the zone-blocking scheme the Packers are trying to operate. No team runs that scheme better than the Broncos.

Henderson has not only passed such challenges before, but has outlasted the challenger every time.

In 2004, Henderson was in a hotly contested training camp battle with Nick Luchey before winning the job. He went onto his only Pro Bowl.

He split snaps last season with Leach, oftentimes with Henderson playing on passing downs and Leach on running downs. Both Luchey and Leach, who was released by the Saints this week, are out of the league.

Even going all the way back to 1997, Henderson beat out a draft pick by the name of Jerald Sowell, who's gone on to a fruitful career with the New York Jets and now Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This, however, could finally be the moment when Father Time catches up to the 35-year-old Henderson. The zone blocking scheme demands a more agile fullback since he's not necessarily heading to a specific spot to deliver the block, and that's not Henderson at this advanced stage of his career.

Even if he loses the starting job, Henderson should maintain a key role on the team. Even though he has caught just one pass this season, he caught 30 for 264 yards last season. That yardage was the second-most of his career, trailing only the 367 picked up way back in 1997. He's also one of the few veteran leaders on a young team, not to mention a quality special-teams player.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.


Packer Report Top Stories