Notebook: Backs Need Carries

Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin says the Packers have to run the ball more; latest injury reports and an update on Matthew Stafford; plus more from Thursday.

For all the consternation over the number of sacks allowed, the Packers have another issue on offense.

The rushing attack has been mostly a nonfactor through the first quarter of the season. The Packers rank 22nd in the league with 99.8 rushing yards per game, a figure that is a bit inflated because of Aaron Rodgers' scrambles.

Perhaps the bigger issue is the Packers rank 29th with only 23.5 attempts per game.

"We do as a staff feel like we need to get those attempts up to be the type of balanced offense that we want to be," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said on Thursday.

Featured back Ryan Grant is averaging only 3.45 yards per carry on first down, a figure that ranks a woeful 37th in the NFL, and 3.8 yards per carry overall. It's hard to stick with the running game when it's not working. Green Bay is one of only four teams in the league without a 20-yard run.

Philbin said the blame should be spread equally.

"I think he's been pretty solid," Philbin said of Grant. "The one thing we've emphasized to everybody for us to get the production, the yards per carry where we want it, we certainly have to improve up front with the run-blocking unit, whether it be the fullbacks, tight ends, O-line. That has to get better. We also need to break some more tackles. At times, you just have to — we were watching some of the red-zone film last night and we've seen it against Detroit where a couple of big runs were not blocked very, very well, but guys make plays. You've got to make some plays out there, as well."

Some backs get stronger as the game goes on, and Philbin agreed there "might be some merit" to feeding the ball to Grant and seeing if he gets stronger on carry No. 20 or 25. This season, Grant is averaging 4.8 yards in the second half compared to 3.1 in the first.

Packers injury report

Out — FB Korey Hall (calf). Did not participate — RB DeShawn Wynn (knee). Limited participation — DE Cullen Jenkins (ankle); NT Ryan Pickett (hip); G/C Jason Spitz (back); RT Mark Tauscher (knee); C Scott Wells (hamstring). Full participation — S Atari Bigby (knee); LT Chad Clifton (ankle); G Daryn Colledge (knee); RB Brandon Jackson (ankle); LB Brady Poppinga (illness); LB Jeremy Thompson (knee).

Added to the list were Wells and Spitz, who were injured during group drills. McCarthy didn't think they were serious. So, without their first- and second-team centers, undrafted rookie Evan Dietrich-Smith took all of the reps during the team period.

Poppinga was a full participant after being ill on Monday and Wednesday, and Clifton (ankle) and Bigby (knee) remain on track to start after their injuries responded well to Wednesday's practice.

Lions injury report

Did not participate — DT Sammie Hill (ankle); DE Jason Hunter (ankle); DT Grady Jackson (knee); WR Calvin Johnson (knee); RB Maurice Morris (hip); S Koe Simpson (hamstring); QB Matthew Stafford (knee); DE Dewayne White (hamstring). Limited participation — LB Jordan Dizon (foot); FB Jerome Felton (shoulder); TE Casey FitzSimmons (thigh); LB Ernie Sims (shoulder). Full participation — RT Gosder Cherilus (shoulder); TE Brandon Pettigrew (hamstring).

Stafford in doubt for Sunday

Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, went from limited participation on Wednesday to no participation on Thursday. Asked what that meant for Stafford's status on Sunday, Lions coach Jim Schwartz said only: "I'm just going to let our injury report handle where we are with the quarterback."

Asked in general about playing injured players, Schwartz told reporters in Detroit: "Your objective every week is to win that game. That's our objective this Sunday. That's our objective every single Sunday. I think the thing that you need to balance with any player, and I assume you're talking about the quarterback, but any player, when you talk about an injury, you balance their ability to play, their ability to be effective on the field, their potential to make an injury worse, you balance all of those things. If a player is out there and he can get through but he can't be effective in his role then it doesn't make any sense to play him. It pertains to every single position. And if there's a potential that an injury is going to get worse, then you'd be in a position where you wouldn't play him. This is a tough game for tough people and you're going to have to play through some injuries over the course of a season."

Four-point stance

— The team practiced outside on a cold and damp morning. Johnny Jolly wore a sweatshirt and sweatpants over his pads to stay warm. On the opposite end of the wardrobe spectrum, Poppinga wore no sleeves under his jersey, despite missing a couple days with the flu.

"Brady's Brady," McCarthy said. "He flew around today like he always does. He was out sick, but he's fine."

— The Packers are giving away tickets to the Packers-Vikings showdown on Nov. 1. Click here for details.

Daunte Culpepper, who would replace Stafford, has thrown 14 touchdowns against no interceptions in his last five starts against Green Bay.

— The Packers rank 14th in offense (22nd rushing, tied for 12th passing) and 18th in defense (20th rushing, 17th passing). Detroit ranks 21st in offense (19th rushing, 16th passing) and 22nd in defense (21st rushing, 27th passing). Both teams' red-zone defenses have been horrible. The Packers are tied for last by allowing touchdowns on 75 percent of inside-the-20 possessions while the Lions are 29th by allowing touchdowns 70 percent of the time.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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