McCarthy Q&A on running backs

Despite the loss of Ahman Green to free agency this off-season, Packers coach Mike McCarthy has expressed complete optimism in the Green Bay Packers running backs currently on the roster. McCarthy offered his thoughts last week at the annual NFL Owner's Meetings on the team's running back situation and if the Packers can utilize a rookie immediately in the team's offense.

Here are McCarthy's responses to questions from a few Wisconsin reporters during a breakfast session at the owners meetings:

Q: If you draft a running back on the first day, what are the odds of him being able to contribute right away?
Mike McCarthy:
I think A.J. Hawk answered that question, I think Daryn Colledge answered that question. Really, it depends on how he comes in. We'll give him an opportunity to. That's one thing I can tell you. We'll give him an opportunity to contribute.

Q: Are there enough guys to get one of those on draft day?
I haven't watched enough film to give you (an answer). I know where they're ranked, and not the game-tape. I've sat through some of the scouting meetings and I've heard the scouts talk about them.

Q: Could you add a Maurice Jones-Drew type, who comes in and has an impact right away? Is that rare?
I don't think so. I think sometimes it's based on opportunity. If you go through the history of guys that have played well (as rookies), a lot of it is they were given an opportunity -- maybe even before they were ready -- and they overcame that. A big part of young players making impacts in their first year as opposed to, in my opinion, guys that don't make an impact with a team that are drafted high, you've got to look at their opportunity. Look at the situations they're put into to succeed. I think that's a huge factor. You take these young players and you put them in positions where they are a major factor in the outcome of the game or as far as game-planning. A quarterback, for instance. You're asking your quarterback to go out and win the game more weeks than not. That's hard for a young guy. Marino's probably the only one who's done it.

Q: Running back is different, though, young guys have done it, right?
I think it'd be easier for a running back than a quarterback, clearly. You break the running back's responsibility down, obviously you have the running game, you have him blocking, and you have him in the pass protection and the pass perimeter. So you could take and give him opportunities of getting the ball in his hand because obviously if you draft him the first day, he's probably a pretty productive player, so you could do that with him. But if you go in and say, `I need this guy to play first, second and third down ...' Now you're weighing him down a little bit mentally. So that's where you have to find out about the guy (and) what he can handle.

Q: Can your running game be like Denver's where you put anyone in the backfield and get him 1,000 yards?
That's something we're striving for. I mean, that's the way we're structuring our system. Because if you do things right, you're going to be productive, and they've done it better than anybody. And hopefully you guys will be writing about us that way. That's the goal. That's what we're looking for.

Q: Of course, Denver hasn't won a title since they got rid of Terrell Davis, so maybe that whole thing is bull?
I think you could make an argument for that because I think running the football is critical to the success of your football team. Because, a) what it does for your offense, because it sets up 50 percent of your passing game, and b) you get your defense trained to get ready to stop the run, which in my opinion, when you get into the playoffs, you get into the big-boy games, you've got to run the ball and you've got to stop the run. And plus, I think it's a common thread from an attitude and a toughness and an approach that you want to see carry over to your whole football team. So running the football is very important. Now, you're sitting here listening to a guy who threw the ball more than anybody in the league last year. I'm aware of that. But that's not where I want to be. But the same breath, I want to give my players a chance to win the football game. But running the football is very, very important to the success of your team. I clearly believe that. Because if you go through a training camp, and an off-season program, OTAs (Organized Team Activities) and minicamps, and you're playing against an offense that throws it every snap, your defense doesn't have a very good chance to be very good against the run. I just think it's important. That's why we built it the way we did.

Q: Could you go into camp with the no-names you currently have at RB, plus a draft pick, or do you need a vet from the scrap heap?
It's who's available. If there's someone that fits and someone that's available, he can come from the draft or free agency. I have no problem with where they come from. As long as they fit into our program, I'm all for it.

Q: Would you be OK with going into the season with Morency as your starter?
I'm an optimist. I like what Mo brings to the table. He's another guy, he went down to Stillwater his whole time off and was getting ready for the off-season program. I look at him as an individual who's preparing himself to take full advantage of his opportunity. Do I think Mo could be a 1,000-yard rusher in this league? Absolutely. The thing he's going to have to prove to all of us is the durability of doing it for 16 games. They can all say they can do it and want to do it, but to do that week-in and week-out, that's tough duty. I like Mo. Mo's been a very POSITIVE addition to our football team.

Q: What improvements can he make?
Decision making, just the discipline in his course, in his decisions, running the football. I think he did a nice job, I think he really picked up our pass-protection stuff. I think the guy has a chance to obviously improve in all areas, but I think the guy could be an every-down back for us.

Q: With Ahman Green, most of his cuts came naturally. Do you think Mo needs to think more?
They're different runners, different style runners. With a lead-zone running game, there's a lot more track running and discipline, and Mo's probably been better with lead draws and things like that, where he's setting guys up. So when you have that, obviously when he gets to the second level, he's as good as guys I've had in years at making guys miss in the open field. So it's just the improvement on the lead-zone footwork and discipline. That's going to come with reps. The most important thing about that run game is it's a rep run game. The look that you get from the defense could be different every time based on the combination the lead-zone comes off of. So you just have to be really disciplined in your tracking, have your eyes in the right place.

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