The 2009 Packers by position: Halfbacks

In Part 3 of our position-by-position look at training camp, we look at Ryan Grant and his backups in the backfield. Grant rushed for the seventh-most yards in franchise history, but among the top 15 rushers, his per-carry average ranked 14th.

Packer Report continues its position-by-position training camp preview with a look at the halfbacks. The list after "depth" includes all of the players on the current roster. The list after "final cut" is our prediction on who will make the final roster, with the number of players based on past seasons.

Depth (5): Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson, DeShawn Wynn, Kregg Lumpkin, Tyrell Sutton.

Review: The history books will show that Grant posted the seventh-best single-season rushing total in team history and ranked ninth in the NFL last season with 1,203 rushing yards. You know what Mark Twain said about statistics, though. Grant averaged 3.9 yards per carry while getting the ball on a whopping 83 percent of the running backs' carries. Among the top 30 rushers in the NFL last season, Grant's average checked in at No. 23. Among the top 15 rushers, his average was good for only 14th. It didn't help that Grant was a bystander during offseason practices, arrived at training camp late and injured a hamstring early in camp. Nor did it help that the Packers didn't have an elite run blocker on their offensive line or at fullback and tight end. With coach Mike McCarthy showing more of a commitment to the running game, the Packers need more out of Grant and his backups.

Strength: While Grant's season paled in comparison to his breakout performance in 2007, nobody can say he isn't tough. Fighting through that injured hamstring, he ranked fifth in the NFL in attempts while playing in all 16 games. When Aaron Rodgers' shoulder was at its worst, Grant came through with 33 carries vs. Seattle and 31 vs. Indianapolis in back-to-back wins. And as he got healthier, he got more productive. After going without a touchdown or a 100-yard game in the first six weeks, he finished with four touchdown runs and four 100-yard games, including hitting the century mark twice in December. He even showed a little ability in the passing game, picking up nine of his 18 receptions, 75 of his 116 yards and all three of his 10-plus-yards receptions in the final three games. As for Grant's backups, Jackson averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Among running backs with at least 32 attempts (two per game), that ranked an impressive sixth in the NFL. Lumpkin showed some pass-receiving ability against Detroit in Week 2, and Wynn busted off a 73-yard touchdown run against Detroit in Week 17 and was a solid blitz protector in his limited opportunities. Sutton, an undrafted rookie from Northwestern, departed as college football's active leader in receptions with 149.

Weakness: Is Grant just an average ball-carrier, as his 3.9 yards per carry would indicate? Or was he the player who ran wild in 2007 and came on strong in the second half of last season? One cause for concern were his eight fumbles. Only five running backs had more last season. (Minnesota's Adrian Peterson coughed it up a league-high eight times.) That Grant had to carry the ball so many times while at less than full speed for most of the first half of the season speaks volumes to the supporting cast. Jackson's stats look good, but if he was as good as those numbers would indicate, then he would have gotten the ball more often. His blitz pickup skills still leave something to be desired, and his 6.2 yards per reception just isn't good enough. For comparison, Chicago's Matt Forte, a rookie second-round pick last year, averaged 7.6 yards per reception even though he was the focal point for defenses to stop. Wynn, Lumpkin and Sutton all offer something. Wynn is a big back with natural running ability, but the coaches thought so little of him last summer that he was among the first cuts in training camp. Lumpkin was a prep phenom who just hasn't been able to shake the injury bug. Last year, he was given a role in the game plan against the Lions but an injured hamstring ended his season. Sutton has produced against Big Ten competition, but after a stunning freshman season in which he piled up 1,870 all-purpose yards, he also couldn't stay healthy.

Quoteworthy: "For me, inconsistency," Grant said about last season. "The way I want to run, there sometimes was a lack of explosion. I didn't break as many long runs, which is what I do. I think (the hamstring) contributed to me not being explosive."

Final cut (3): Grant, Jackson, Sutton.

We'll go for the darkhorse candidate to be the third halfback. Wynn just doesn't play to his ability and Lumpkin hasn't shown he can stay healthy. Like Darren Sproles and Maurice Jones-Drew, Sutton has that bowling ball body type with short-burst quickness that has found a niche in this league. If he can block and play special teams, he's got a chance.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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