Will the Pack be BACK?

Success in 2007 will hinge on team's rushing attack

The 2007 Green Bay Packer season depends on a lot of factors. One of the biggest factors will be the success of the running game. For the first time in a long while, the Packers will be looking for a back, namely a tailback, that will be productive and consistent.

While Brett Favre has been quarterback in Green Bay, the halfback position has been filled quite admirably. Favre has had Edgar Bennett, Dorsey Levens and Ahman Green behind him for the most part. The 2007 season will be a little different.

There is still some speculation that the Packers might acquire Larry Johnson from the Kansas City Chiefs. Johnson is one of the top tailbacks in the NFL, but the cost to trade for him will be exorbitant. The trade will most likely not happen, based on Ted Thompson's track record. However, Thompson did make a trade for a halfback last year that looks like a steal right now. When Thompson acquired HB Vernand Morency from the Houston Texans for Samkon Gado, it looked like a deal that might be a push. But Gado struggled in Houston, while Morency had a productive year in Green Bay.

The Texans also signed Green as well in free agency and also have re-signed Ron Dayne, who was very productive down the stretch in 2006 for Houston. Right now, Gado will try and become the third string running back for the Texans, competing with Wali Lundy and Chris Taylor. Morency, meanwhile, has a chance to be the starter in Green Bay.

One of the reasons the trade was made was because Gado was a bad fit for the Packers new zone-blocking scheme, while Morency seemed to be a natural fit. Morency proved that Thompson was a shrewd trader as he rushed for 434 yards and had a 4.5 yard per rush attempt average backing up Green. While Morency had a good 2006 season, he will be competing with rookie Brandon Jackson for a job as starting halfback among others.

Other running backs in the mix include Noah Herron, P.J. Pope and rookies DeShawn Wynn and Corey White. The Packers will probably keep three tailbacks and two fullbacks on their roster. Wynn and White have the potential to play fullback as well as halfback. Either way, the competition will be fierce.

The Packers need the running game to succeed for the entire offense to become more productive. The offensive line looks to be improved as everyone has had a year to learn the zone-blocking technique. Steady veterans Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher are back and even healthier than 2006. The youngsters, guards Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz are also ready to improve on their successful rookie seasons. Scott Wells will also be back and to try and provide the leadership to the line that Favre has seen with centers such as Frank Winters and Mike Flanagan.

It seems everyone is asking where are the Packer weapons on offense? Sure Favre is still Favre, but he is not the quarterback he was a few years ago. Wide receiver Donald Driver has been very steady, but he needs to be complemented more. Greg Jennings looked like he was that complement in 2006. The Packers are hoping that more success will happen with the passing game this year, but it all starts with the running game.

So will Morency be the guy? Or will Jackson be a rookie phenom and have another nice season like he did at Nebraska last year? Will Herron be the 3rd down back like he was in 2006? Will Pope, Wynn or White really open some eyes this camp? My guess is that it will be a situation like it was in the mid-90's. That was when Bennett and Levens shared the halfback job.

I think both Morency and Jackson will show enough to the Packers to get a lot of playing time. Herron will probably be the third down back again, unless Morency or Jackson can show enough ability as a blocking and receiving back.

Unless, they have outstanding training camps, Wynn and White will probably have to make the team as both a halfback and fullback. The fullback position will probably have Brandon Miree as a starter, with rookies Korey Hall and Ryan Powdrell competing for the back up job, unless Wynn or White make a name for themselves as both a blocking back and a receiver. The fullback position will mainly be one consisting of blocking, but receiving skills will be very important as William Henderson proved throughout the years.

Like any thing else in the NFL, it all starts in the trenches. As mentioned before, the offensive line should be improved and a plus for the offense. The passing game will depend on the success of the running game. There are a lot of players that will be competing for jobs that are talented enough to make the running game go. For the Packers to be a threat on offense, that will be the key. Time will tell, but the 2007 training camp might be the most interesting camp in many years regarding Green Bay running backs and their productivity. The Packers success on offense in 2007 depends on it.

Bob Fox is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at greenbaybob@hotmail.com.

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