Three to keep an eye on: Part III

Vernand Morency and Brandon Jackson are the favorites to compete for the Packers starting running back job in training camp, but's Tyler Dunne reminds fans not to forget about Noah Herron. Dunne states his case for Herron in the third part of his series on players to keep an eye on in training camp.

With fantasy football drafts lurking, I recently perused the magazine stands to find some more material for the ‘war room.' In a Pro Football Weekly newspaper supplement, the extended cheat sheet contained 90 running backs and 110 wide receivers (maybe Sports Illustrated will pick that up as a "Sign of the Apocalypse").

However it wasn't the magazine's overachieving that was the most shocking. In the flooded RB list, Green Bay backs Vernand Morency, Brandon Jackson, P.J. Pope, and DeShawn Wynn were ranked, but Noah Herron was omitted.

Not only should Herron be listed, but he should seriously be considered in the team's starting running back race.

Morency and Jackson have been lauded as perfect fits for the team's zone blocking scheme. That may be true. But keep an eye on Herron. In limited action over two seasons, he has shown toughness between the tackles, soft hands, and sneaky quickness. Whether his skill set is only equipped for a third-down role can only be answered with more opportunities. Whenever given fleeting chances to shine, Herron has delivered.

In Week 5 last fall against St. Louis, Morency struggled mightily. In place of a hobbled Ahman Green (hamstring), Morency accumulated only 15 yards on six carries. Herron replaced him and Green Bay's offensive game plan immediately shifted to the 2005 seventh round pick. Herron carried 20 times for 106 yards and caught five passes to put the Packers in a position to win.

At Buffalo three weeks later, Herron was effective again. He totaled 82 total yards, including five yards per carry in a reserve role.

"[Herron] is a very heady player and he took full advantage of an excellent opportunity and he cashed in," said coach Mike McCarthy on Herron's midseason surge.

But then ... nothing. The door on more opportunities was slammed shut when Green's hamstring and Morency's lower back healed. Herron was virtually eliminated from Green Bay's offensive attack, receiving only two carries over the final seven games.

As the only running back remaining from last year's training camp, Herron may have the best grasp of the offense. McCarthy should give him a legitimate shot at starting through more reps with the first team offense and more carries in the preseason.

Maybe Herron is a lifetime third down back, in the Tony Fisher mold. Or maybe Herron is a budding Dorsey Levens - a not exceptionally fast, versatile back who has the durability to carry a full-time load. In a handful of cameos over two seasons, Herron has appeared capable of taking a pounding and at Northwestern he carried 462 times in 45 games for 2,524 yards and 26 touchdowns. That's a workhorse.

Don't draft Herron in your fantasy league quite yet. Unlike his competition, Herron isn't a burner. Just keep in mind that Morency and Jackson aren't alone in the running back sweepstakes.

Tyler Dunne

Tyler Dunne is a student at Syracuse University and a frequent contributor to

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