The thought of going with two young running backs to replace Ahman Green seems like a good idea, but the plan is beginning to backfire, and at a very early time in camp. Incumbent running back Vernand Morency injured his left knee on the first day of camp, and now is expected to miss the team's Family Night scrimmage on Saturday, and the first preseason game at Pittsburgh. That leaves the Packers with rookie Brandon Jackson as the starter, and Noah Herron and P.J. Pope as the top backups.
The Packers, if they're not already, should be seriously concerned about Morency's durability. The third-year pro has all the potential to be a good NFL running back. He's a great fit for the Packers' zone blocking running attack, but is he dependable? Can he prove that he's not a fumbler? He might return from his injury and never get hurt again, but is that realistic? At this point, no.
Morency earned a pair of starts for the injured Green last season. He came out in flying colors against Philadelphia, rushing for 99 yards on 26 carries, though, he fumbled the ball away twice. He started again the next week and fumbled the ball away on his first carry before he was yanked from the game and replaced by Herron. He received a few more carries in the next two games, but was forced to leave the game after 11 carries and 101 yards rushing against Arizona on Oct. 29 because of a lower back injury. That injury caused him to miss two games. While Morency stayed healthy the rest of the season, he never had more than nine carries in a game.
Morency was as excited and ready to go as anyone on the Packers roster for the start of training camp. He has prepared hard for a golden opportunity to start for the Packers. Unfortunately, the opportunity has left him walking with a noticeable limp. The Packers should do something about it because Morency's career thus far is similar to wide receiver Robert Ferguson's. When healthy, he has the ability to shine, but he is in the training room more often than not. This is not a good sign at a position that demands consistency.
The Packers reportedly have room under their salary cap to make a deal for an established running back, like Johnson or Turner. Rumors have been flying this past week that Green Bay has offered a few picks in next year's NFL Draft for the disgruntled back. That doesn't seem to fit general manager Ted Thompson's method of building a team, but who knows? The GM may have to bite the bullet and give up a few picks in order for this year's offense to succeed.
The Packers are quickly proving to themselves that they need a good, dependable running back. They might have to pay some big money and/or give up draft picks to get that back, but that back could be the difference between making the playoffs or missing the postseason for the third straight year.
Jackson might be the answer, but that's a role of the dice. For a player that had surgical procedures on both shoulders while at Nebraska, will he be dependable? If it's within reason, the Packers should go ahead and pull the trigger on a trade for a veteran to give their rushing attack a better chance of scoring points this year.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.