Sydney Speaks! An opportunity of a lifetime

Former Packers fullback and running backs coach Harry Sydney offers an expert analysis of Ryan Grant's performance thus far this season.

People want to ask themselves what and how are the Packers sitting where they are with an 11-2 record, considering how they started this year. I'm not talking about the five wide receiver sets. I'm talking about not having a running game or did they always have one and just didn't have the right running back trying to be the featured guy. Make no mistake about it, I believe that the Packers have found a diamond in the rough, so let me explain:

Do we give Ted Thompson the credit for finding him or do we give Ryan Grant the credit for seizing the opportunity, which he has done. Lucky for the Packers, their fourth option came through. Let's look back at how this running game as transformed from basically an afterthought to a vital weapon as this team sets his sights on their next meeting with the Cowboys. As the Packers march to the Super Bowl, let's see if they can get past the NFC title game.

The first step in the process was when they were trying to think that they could do it by having backs by committee, which in my mind was a mistake to start with. I know many people think running the ball is easy, but it's not. It takes the coordination of many things. The back could be very good, but if he has nowhere to go and there aren't any holes, it doesn't matter how fast he runs or how great his eyes are, or how well he protects the ball. Lately you might have heard the interview with Scott Wells were he's explaining how the offensive line is executing better because they are using their hands better. In other words, the linemen are getting better, which means they are using better technique and leverage. I have to admit they are doing a better job of that, but it's all about who is running the ball.

Let's look at who has run the ball, and let's start with Brandon Jackson and what he brought to the table. He got his chance and got every opportunity to win the job and couldn't because he didn't bring anything special to the table except good hands. He seemed to do a good job protecting the football, but he couldn't make anyone miss and didn't break any tackles, therefore, the running game struggled.

The Vernand Morency experiment unfortunately didn't happen because he couldn't stay healthy enough to be a featured back in the NFL. Lucky for him he has enough wiggle and screen running ability that he found a home as the Packers third down back. Of course because of these players, or lack of players, DeShawn Wynn got a chance to show what he could do, and it appeared that he had won the job, well, at least until he went on injured reserved for a shoulder injury that ended his season. Just like we have to give Ted Thompson and his staff credit for finding Ryan Grant, we also have to ask him what was it he saw in Brandon Jackson to waste a second round pick.

Ryan Grant is having an outstanding season and it isn't an accident. This guy runs with bad intentions. He runs with great pad level and is making defensive backs take a side when tackling him. What's more important is that as fast as it looks like he is running he is really running with patience until he hits the hole. This guy is running like he has something to prove, and he does. He wants to prove to the Packers organization that next year they don't have to waste any money on some high round draft pick to come in and do the job because he can do it and do it very well. Remember since Week Eight he has rushed for more yards than anyone else in the National Football League and is roughly 250 yards from reaching that magical 1,000-yard mark, a measuring stick for a running back. In my opinion Ryan Grant is the reason the running game has gotten better and that's because he runs like he is on a mission, and he is. He watched Brandon Jackson, Vernand Morency and DeShawn Wynn not seize the moment as if being a starting running back in the NFL wasn't enough of a dream to achieve.

In Ryan Grant I see hunger and a guy that understands what's right in front of him. Here's an example: Remember against Dallas when on short yardage he broke through the defense for 62 yards and a touchdown he never slowed up did he? He ran as if his life depended on it. He didn't act like he arrived, but acted like this is AN OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME.

Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at

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