These Packers will run, not walk

The zone scheme's history of success shows the Packers will have a solid run game, even without a marquee veteran or touted rookie.

There's much angst in Packers Nation about who exactly is going to provide a rushing threat.

No wonder. For the first time in how long, the Packers don't have a bona fied No. 1 running back. The Packers went from Edgar Bennett to Dorsey Levens to Ahman Green. That's about 15 years of productivity at one of the NFL's marquee positions.

This season, the Packers don't have that luxury.

Don't worry, though. Whether it's Vernand Morency, second-round pick Brandon Jackson or a committee that will include those two with Noah Herron or a second-tier free agent, the Packers will mount an effective running game.

Remember, this is the ballyhooed zone-blocking rushing attack. Like a jukebox, in which a couple of quarters will spit out your favorite tune, this offensive scheme inevitably will spit out a 1,000-yard rusher.

Exhibit A, as always, is the Denver Broncos.

Last season, Tatum Bell rushed for 1,025 yards. Throw in Mike Bell, and that tandem amassed more than 1,700 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In 2005, Mike Anderson rushed for 1,014 yards and scored a dozen touchdowns. Toss in Tatum Bell, and they rushed for 1,935 yards and 20 touchdowns.

In 2004, Reuben Droughns rushed for 1,240 yards. Add to the mix Tatum Bell and Quentin Griffin, and that trio rushed 1,947 yards and 11 touchdowns.

In 2003, Clinton Portis — the Broncos' only elite draft pick to run behind the zone scheme — piled up 1,591 yards, 5.5 yards per carry and 14 touchdowns. Throw in Griffin and Anderson, and they gained almost 2,200 yards.

The stats piled up by Anderson truly show the strength of the zone scheme. In his only season as a starter, the former sixth-round pick topped 1,000 yards and scored 12 TDs. The next season, with Baltimore, he gained 183 yards.

Green was a big-time running back in his prime, but he no longer is in his prime. Still, even while missing a couple early-season games, Green rushed for 1,059 yards while running behind a line with two and sometimes three rookies.

Also remember, Morency had games of 99 and 101 yards last season, and Herron picked up 106 against St. Louis.

Those rookie linemen are now second-year players. Center Scott Wells is entering his second season as the starter. Mark Tauscher remains an above-average right tackle, and Chad Clifton — bad knees and all — is at least an average left tackle.

Clearly, the blocking will be better than last year. So why can't Morency or Jackson thrive?

The answer is there's no reason to believe they won't.

Would the running game have been better had the Packers drafted Marshawn Lynch or signed Travis Henry? Perhaps, but Morency showed enough last season in a part-time role to suggest he can be productive, and Jackson is a promising rookie well-versed in the zone scheme.

The Packers have plenty of reasons to be concerned entering this season, starting with Brett Favre and who the heck he's going to throw the ball to. The running game, however, will be fine. There might not be a 1,400-yard rusher, but if the committee can combine for 1,600 yards, the Packers will be fine.

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


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