Tops on list of priorities

Packers focus on reviving their woeful rushing attack

A big source of contemplation for some of the coaches during the bye week was an almost nonexistent running game that has belied the team's 5-1 start.

The Packers brought up the rear of the NFL rankings with an average of 65.7 yards per game. The franchise that has embodied the phrase "run to daylight" has never finished last in the league for rushing.

"There's no question that's been a huge disappointment in the first half of the season for us," veteran right tackle Mark Tauscher said.

Unless an about-face transpires in short order, this year's team will have the dubious honor of worst running unit in club lore. At the top of the list is the 2005 team, which averaged 84.5 yards in a 4-12 season that resulted in the dismissal of head coach Mike Sherman.

Sherman's successor, Mike McCarthy, has been stymied in trying to revive the moribund run game with a zone-blocking scheme he implemented last year. The rushing average improved to 103.9 yards in 2006, but the Packers ranked 23rd in the league.

They've hit rock bottom so far this season.

"I wouldn't say we've regressed. We have not improved," McCarthy said.

As the chief of the offense, which lost workhorse back Ahman Green to Houston in free agency, McCarthy has resorted to a back-by-committee approach. Yet, no one has emerged as a viable lead runner among the quartet of rookies Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn, Vernand Morency and Ryan Grant.

Wynn was thrust into the featured role in Week 4 after Jackson suffered a strained shin and Morency was slow to recover from a knee injury sustained on Day 1 of training camp.

The dearth of productivity and accompanying distrust of the personnel - backs and inconsistent blockers included - prompted McCarthy to become one-dimensional with his play calling. The pass-to-run percentage after six games was 68-32.

"I think going with one back in certain situations will help us get some rhythm there," McCarthy said. "And, the play caller needs to have more confidence at times. I'm being critical of myself."

McCarthy hasn't committed to Jackson, Wynn or Morency as the primary back, but he asserted that "auditions are over." In doing so, he suggested that maintaining status quo by leaning heavily on the pass might be in the team's winning interests.

"We're going to do what we need to do and we feel gives us the best chance to win the game," McCarthy said.


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