Time to move forward at running back

PackerReport.com's Matt Tevsh states his case on why the Green Bay Packers should think running back either in free agency, or early on Day 1 of the NFL draft, and move on without Ahman Green.

Of all the personnel decisions the Packers have to make this off-season, none is tougher than what to do with Ahman Green.

The running back (who turns 30 on Friday) came back strong last season after a career-threatening quadriceps injury in 2005 and is one of the all-time Packers' greats. With 1,059 yards rushing in 2006, his career rushing total with the Packers is just 45 yards shy of Jim Taylor (8,207) for the No. 1 spot.

It would be tough to see Green go with such a productive history in Green Bay, but unlike last off-season, this off-season is a better time for the team to invest in another running back. The Packers are in a much better situation, with different priorities, so pursuing a back in the draft to go with Vernand Morency would better suit their direction.

The Packers had to sign Green a year ago with a new coaching staff in place and a new running scheme about to be implemented. They had quality running backs in Najeh Davenport and Samkon Gado, but Green was the long-term proven starter and the best option at a fair price. With so many other concerns, having him back and trusting that his work ethic would take care of his recovery was almost essential.

Next season the Packers need a different type of back. Yes, Green still has a burst and can be productive, but he is better suited and most effective in a power running attack like the Packers utilized under former coach Mike Sherman. Now they have a zone-blocking scheme tailored for a smaller, shiftier, cut-back type back.

Only at the end of the year did the Packers employ a few power formation running plays with pulling guards leading the way for Green. Other than that, they stuck with the growing pains of a young offensive line cut-blocking its way to respect.

Even with a new offensive coordinator, Joe Philbin, the Packers said they will stick with the same blocking scheme and running game. If that is the case, they need to become more dynamic for the running game to reach a new level.

The list of backs scheduled to become free agents in March is not particularly eye-popping, but the Packers may take a chance on the Colts' Dominic Rhodes, who heads the list of unrestricted free agents and would fit the Packers' system. Another would be the Chargers' Michael Turner, but as a restricted free agent, he will be an unlikely option. Draft-happy general manager Ted Thompson will probably not want to give away any of the required picks it takes to snatch a restricted player.

The Packers probably will have to rely on the draft to acquire a top back. If they get lucky, they just might get one in the first round. Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma and Marshawn Lynch of California have been getting most of the attention and would fit the Packers system perfectly.

Not all great backs in the zone-blocking scheme, though, have been first-rounders. Any Broncos' running back in the past decade has been a prime example of that. No doubt Thompson and his scouting staff have pegged a young back that may slide to them later in the draft to possibly become the next star for the Packers.

The last time the Packers selected a running back in the first round was 1987 (Brent Fullwood), so they are long overdue for a first-round pick at that position. Retaining Green is a safe way to go, but this off-season seems like an appropriate time to find a different type of back who can optimize his skills in the Packers' system.

Matt Tevsh

Matt Tevsh is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com.

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