No need for an ulcer

With the shifty Vernand Morency, rookie Brandon Jackson and a wiser offensive line, Packers' running game should be just fine without a true No. 1 running back.

While much of Packers Nation frets about Green Bay lacking a true No. 1 running back for the first time since Edgar Bennett and Reggie Cobb shared the carries in 1994, the Packers' coaching staff seems blissfully happy with the situation.

Of course, they could be lying, putting on a stiff upper lip in public while worrying themselves to the state of having an ulcer while alone in their offices.

I don't think that's the case, though.

The NFL is a copycat league, and the teams that reached last year's Super Bowl and conference championship games got there by having two running backs playing prominent roles.

Indianapolis won the Super Bowl with rookie Joseph Addai (1,081 yards) eventually passing Dominic Rhodes (641 yards) as the marquee back, even though Rhodes started every game and never averaged fewer than 10 carries per game over a one-month span.

Chicago reached the Super Bowl with Thomas Jones (1,210 yards) as the featured back and Cedric Benson (647) playing a major role. Benson, in fact, averaged about 14 carries per game over the final month of the season as the Bears turned more to a committee approach.

New England reached the AFC title game with Corey Dillon (199 carries for 812 carries) and Laurence Maroney (175 carries for 745 yards) almost equally splitting the carries.

New Orleans emerged as a budding NFC power with Deuce McAllister (1,057 yards) and Reggie Bush (565 yards) forming an explosive one-two punch.

In Green Bay, there's no reason to assume Vernand Morency and rookie Brandon Jackson will form that kind of dynamic tandem. But there's no reason to assume the Packers' running game is going to be a disaster, either.

"I think we all know in the NFL that there's quite a few examples of two running backs getting a good bit of time sharing the ball," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "We'll just have to see how it plays out."

There are reasons to believe it will play out in the Packers' favor.

First, as I wrote about earlier this offseason, the Packers are using the zone-blocking scheme, which has been successful wherever it's been tried. It's been most successful in Denver, but even the Packers put together a decent running game behind two and sometimes three rookie linemen last year. Heck, if Noah Herron can have a 100-yard game, then that's reason enough for optimism.

Second, those rookie linemen are a lot more experienced today, and all five starters are more sure of themselves in the zone scheme. Second-year guards Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz should be better, as should center Scott Wells, who is entering his second season as the starter at the position. More importantly, left tackle Chad Clifton says he hasn't felt this good in years.

Beyond all of that, there's the talent possessed by Jackson and Morency.

Morency rushed 96 times for 434 yards last season, including 99 yards against Philadelphia in his debut as a starter and 101 yards three weeks later as a reserve against Arizona. His 4.5-yard average for the season is impressive enough to make you wonder what he can do with a prominent role all season.

There are countless examples of guys seemingly coming out of nowhere to become a star. In fact, unless he's a first-round pick, that's the case for practically everyone in sports. The guy Morency is trying to replace, Ahman Green, is the perfect example. Green came to Green Bay known more for his fumbling than anything he'd done on the field in Seattle. Green left Green Bay this offseason as one of the top running backs in Packers history.

"(Green) came to Green Bay and he became a star. It happens. It's just a matter of getting the chance to be the guy," Morency said.

The big question about Morency is whether he can take the punishment of being more than a part-time player. Well, the last month of last season was Morency's best month of the season. Morency — who weighs a deceiving 220 pounds — carried 33 times for 178 yards, or a 5.4-yard average, in December.

The key to it, though, will be Jackson. If he's good enough to handle 10 or 15 carries a game and Herron can handle some of the third-down dirty work, then Morency's durability will be less of an issue.

A successful running game is never dependent solely on a big-time back. A successful running game is dependent on scheme, blocking and the talent of the back merging into a cohesive unit. As long as that happens, the Packers' coaches will have one less reason to be eating Prilosec like they're M&Ms.

Some good reading I found while surfing the web:

www.sportsline.com/spin/story/10186083

www.charlotte.com/sports/story/156562.html

www.ballerstatus.com/article/news/2007/06/2663/

www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=23&id=13360

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


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