Questions surround offense

Injuries to running backs leave Packers 'in a bind' as opener nears

Forced to throw two out of every three plays with Brett Favre at quarterback in the four preseason games, the offense is anything but properly aligned for the kickoff to the 2007 season.

A litany of injuries that unfolded on the first day of training camp sapped the unit of a reliable featured back, the position that had the biggest void to be filled in the offseason. Perhaps it's too much to say the Packers have been cursed for allowing workhorse, albeit aging, Ahman Green to take a lucrative deal with the Texans in free agency, but concern was evident as Favre spoke just days before Sunday's game against visiting Philadelphia.

"I think in my (16-year starting) career, this is the first time we've been faced with this," Favre said Wednesday.

"A real bind" is how general manager Ted Thompson characterized the situation.

The Packers expect to have Brandon Jackson in the starting lineup, but he's not guaranteed of holding up for the entire game because of a concussion sustained late in training camp.

They also can't be certain on how much, if anything, they'll get out of Vernand Morency, who was out the entire preseason with a knee injury, and rookie DeShawn Wynn, who missed most of camp with a thigh injury that isn't completely healed.

Even the fourth halfback on the roster, newly acquired Ryan Grant, is dealing with a sore hamstring this week.

Grant came over in a trade from the New York Giants after Noah Herron succumbed to a season-ending knee injury in the final preseason game.

"The only concern I have about our running back group, and I'll say it all year, is the health of our group," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's the responsibility of the coaches to put the player in a position to be successful. The healthy running back will have that opportunity. That's the way I view it."

Although Jackson was healthy for all but the final few days of training camp, McCarthy was clearly uneasy about running the second-round draft pick with minimal lead-back exposure in college. Ditto for Wynn, a seventh-round draft choice, when he was finally cleared to play in the last exhibition game.

The Packers ran the football only 23 times out of 74 plays with the Favre-directed No. 1 unit on the field in the preseason.

"In order to succeed, we have to run it," Favre said.

Sure enough, the run-challenged starting group was successful in putting points on the scoreboard just five out of 14 series (three touchdowns, two field goals).

Coming off a season in which they ranked 23rd in the league with a dismal rushing average of 103.9 yards per game, the Packers were 27th in the preseason with a paltry clip of 87 yards per outing.

"Everybody has injuries, and we've had our share at that position during training camp," Thompson said. "But, time marches on, so you have to keep going at it. It is what it is. We'd have liked for our whole group to be able to compete from Day 1 (of camp) ... but at the end of the day, we feel pretty good about this group."

Having healthy bodies notwithstanding, the Packers have other issues to get rectified with what they have available at running back.

Jackson struggled mightily in pass protection for the better part of the time he was available in the preseason. Wynn has proved to be solid in blitz pickup, but he dropped two passes in the last game, much to the chagrin of Favre.

"I think what gets lost in all of this (about the woes of the position) is we have to find backs or a back who can catch the ball," Favre said. "Otherwise, teams are going to say, 'Hey, we'll load up, we know they're going to block. Or, even if he goes out for a pass, he's indecisive in his route running.'

"We see that teams that are successful have a back who can catch it and is a threat not only in the pocket running the ball but out of the pocket (with) mismatches. We have to do that."


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