Grant is a downhill runner. And just like anything else that goes downhill, it picks up speed along the way.
Breaking the season into quarters, Grant averaged 3.84 yards per carry in the first four games, 4.44 in the next four games, 3.97 in the next four games and a whopping 5.85 in the final five games (including playoffs). He had two carries of longer than 22 yards in the first 12 games but three such runs in the final five. His 11 touchdown runs were one less than his first two seasons combined, and his 1,253 yards were a career high and ranked seventh in the NFL.
Grant isn't the most elusive back in the NFL. He's not going to run over many defenders, either. But he ran with incredible passion, toughness and decisiveness down the stretch. While he isn't the hold-your-breath-on-every-play threat that Peterson is, at least Grant isn't a fumbling machine. Grant didn't fumble once on a running play all season. Peterson coughed it up seven times, losing six. On the down side, Grant offers little as a receiver and is poor in pass protection.
Jackson probably had his best season in the NFL, even though his 298 yards from scrimmage were significantly less than his 433 in 2008 and 397 as a rookie in 2007. Jackson is a disappointing threat with the ball in his hands as a former second-round pick but he's remarkably improved mentally and physically in stopping blitzers in their tracks as a third-down back. The next step is for him to become a better open-field runner to really be an asset in that situational role.
Jackson's growth could mean the end for restricted free agent Wynn. Wynn's role was as the third-down back until his season ended with knee surgery. With Jackson's improvement in stopping blitzers, the Packers probably wish they would have kept Tyrell Sutton rather than Wynn. Midseason pickup Green turns 33 next month and has battled injuries the last three years but showed he had some life in his legs by running through the Seattle defense in Week 16 and becoming the short-yardage runner late in the season.
No doubt the Packers would like Johnson to blossom into the starter at fullback. Kuhn and Hall are OK at everything but hardly are the dominant blockers that Johnson has the potential of becoming. Johnson, however, has hands of stone in the passing game and was a nonfactor on special teams with zero tackles. Special teams, of course, is a big part of playing fullback. The oft-injured Hall (limited to 11 games for the second consecutive year) had 12 special-teams tackles while Kuhn had 11, good for fourth and fifth on the team. Kuhn's brain cramp cost the Packers a blocked punt and touchdown at Tampa Bay.
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The combined rushing yardage of Green (160), Jackson (111) and Wynn (19) is 26 yards less than quarterback Aaron Rodgers (316) gained as the team's second-leading rusher.
Grant: Through 2011 ($4.5 million base salary for 2010, including $1.5 million bonus for topping 1,250 yards.)
Jackson: Through 2010 ($550,000 base).
Green: Unrestricted free agent.
Wynn: Restricted free agent.
Hall: Through 2010 ($550,000 base).
Kuhn: Restricted free agent.
Johnson: Through 2012 ($395,000 base).
Before Grant burst onto the scene midway through 2007, the Packers' running game was poor. In 2008, Grant was held to 1.3, 1.3 and 2.7 yards per carry in the first six games of the season. In 2009, he failed to break a run of even 7 yards in two of the first three games.
For the Packers' running game to truly be something better than average — this season, their 117.8 rushing yards per game ranked 14th, their best mark since 2003 — it must hit the ground running from Week 1 rather than being a nonfactor early in the year.
Both offensive tackles are free agents, as are left guard Daryn Colledge and center/guard Jason Spitz. So, who starts up front next season and will Johnson make a move at fullback to be an upgrade over Hall and Kuhn? That's a lot of uncertainty in the blocking unit.
Those chronic slow starts aren't merely a small problem, with an extra win meaning the difference between playoffs and no playoffs or perhaps a first-round bye instead of opening on the road.
With Grant, the Packers have a reliable, consistent, tough-as-dirt featured ball-carrier. Now what they need is something more dynamic in the passing game. Jackson showed some flashes, but through three inconsistent NFL seasons with no receptions longer than 18 yards, he probably is what he is. If Green wants to come back, it'll be interesting to see if the Packers make an effort to re-sign Wynn. Either way, a pass-catching threat out of the backfield should be a priority with a late-round pick.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.