Posted by Mike Wendt on August 20, 2012 Jump To Comments
With preseason games in full swing and position battles coming down to the wire, depth charts are starting to solidify across the National Football League. While the Packer defense is still working out coverage assignments and adjusting to the loss of Desmond Bishop, the league’s most potent offense has most of the starting jobs already penciled in. The biggest question mark entering the final two weeks of the preseason is who will get the starting nod at tailback. James Starks entered camp as the favorite to earn the role, but he looked terrible against the Chargers and is now dealing with a turf toe injury that has him sidelined indefinitely. The Packers signed 29-year old Cedric Benson to challenge Starks for the role, and now C-Bens may have the inside track to win the gig outright. That being said, the veteran has a lot of miles on him, and the team prefers the speed and quickness that Alex Green offers. Green, though, is unproven and working his way back from an ACL injury he suffered last season.
Every year the talking heads say the same things, “You need to have a running game if you want to win in the National Football League”, “You can’t win in the NFL if you’re a one dimensional team”, and “The Packers need to establish a running game if they want to compete for a Super Bowl this season”. I understand the need to fill air-time/incite a debate/establish an angle for a column, but back up these statements with some numbers. To me, it seems like the only reason a team needs to have an efficient ground game is because they don’t have enough faith in their quarterback to throw the ball 40-plus times. The Miami Heat didn’t need to establish a low-post game early in in the playoffs, they had Lebron and Dwayne Wade. They wanted the ball to go through their best player. In fact, the Heat actually played better basketball after Chris Bosh went down with an abdominal strain, due in large part to the fact that LBJ and Wade didn’t need to try to run their offense through the post.
Back to the Packers. Green Bay has one of the the best quarterbacks in the league, they don’t need to establish a running game because they have faith in Rodgers’ ability. Same goes for teams like the Patriots, Saints and Giants. They are at their best when their best player has the ball in his hands, and that’s their quarterbacks. They don’t need to try to force a running game to emerge just because that’s how the game has always been played. Times have changed. Take a look at the stats below for the teams who have played in the Super Bowl over the last few years.
Giants (league worst 32nd ranked rushing yards per game) (5th ranked PY/G)
Patriots (20th ranked RY/G) (2nd ranked PY/G)
Packers (24th ranked RY/G) (5th ranked PY/G)
Steelers (11th ranked RY/G) (14th ranked PY/G)
Saints (6th ranked RY/G) (4th ranked PY/G)
Colts (league worst 32nd ranked rushing yards per game) (2nd ranked PY/G)
Steelers (23rd ranked RY/G) (17th ranked PY/G)
Cardinals (league worst 32nd ranked rushing yards per game) (2nd ranked PY/G)
So in three of the past four Super Bowls, a team ranked dead last in rushing yards per game has made it to the big stage, and only one of the eight teams was ranked higher in rushing yards per game than they were in passing yards per game.
The NFL has entered a new era where pass-first offenses have, at its most elite level, evolved into a pass-first-and-second-and-sometimes-third offenses. It definitely doesn’t hurt to have a great running game, but no team ranked in the top five in rushing yards per game has made it to the Super Bowl over the last four years, so a 1,000-yard back isn’t a necessity anymore. Personally, I’d start the running back who is the best at picking up the blitz, because the Packers will only be successful if Rodgers is standing upright. I’ll be keeping an eye on the running back situation as it unfolds over the next few weeks, I just don’t think the battle is as important as it’s being hyped up to be.
Who do you think should run the ball for the Packers? How do you think they’ll do this season? Drop me a line at email@example.com or get at me on Twitter @MikeWendt7.