It’s a wrap. The 2013 NFL Draft is over. And the Packers made significant strides on offense, may have found Cullen Jenkins’ replacement, and added quality (hopefully) depth to the offensive line and a number of positions on defense.
But, perhaps the most important improvement from this draft will come from the Packers’ selections of Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin. For the first time since Ahman Green (and, yes, I’m overlooking Ryan’s Grant’s short stint), the Packers should field a dangerous rushing attack. After falling into the consensus top-RB in Eddie Lacy in the second round, the Packers traded back into the end of the fourth to grab Johnathan Franklin.
Out of UCLA, Franklin is 5’10” and 210 lbs. Powerful in his own right, Franklin is more the elusive, scat-back type. He’s a capable receiver out of the backfield and has just enough speed to break a long one. And he’s a high-character individual, aspiring to be the Mayor of Los Angeles after his playing career.
So, heading into training camp, the Packers will field three-headed backfield that should finally force teams to honor the run game. Eddie Lacy should be the starter and player to get most of the carriers. He’s built for delivering punishment and getting the hard yards; yet, he’s quick and blessed with a devastating spin-move. Franklin should ascend to the third-down role because he’s a good pass-catcher, can pick up the blitz, and good in the open field. And, we can’t forget DuJuan Harris, the breakout player over the last several games. He’s a bowling ball that runs as hard as he can every time he touches the ball. He showed burst, vision, and some good moves in limited playing time.
The importance of fielding a legitimate run game cannot be understated. It’s been 43 games since the Packers last had a 100-yard rusher. In the last three years, Packers’ running backs have 12-total rushing touchdowns and averaged the lowest yards-per-carry in the league.
Because a run game was nonexistent, teams regularly played some form of a cover-2, taking away the big-play threat that defined the 2011 season. The once-dangerous play-action game became nonexistent. And, as you might expect, the Packers offense was stagnant throughout the season. It is just too difficult to sustain long drives relying almost solely on the passing game. This leads to short drives – meaning the defense is on the field more – and inconsistent production on offense.
But now, the three-headed backfield will force teams to honor a run game. This brings the defenders closer to the box and the defensive line has to consider the run game before getting after the passer. To put it differently, guys like Jared Allen, Peppers, and Suh can’t just pin their ears back and get after it. A legitimate run games makes them play honest. In turn, that provides more time for Rodgers, opens up the field for the deep ball, and reinvigorates the play-action game. So, in a roundabout way, TT did protect his $110M man.
Of course, the key a successful run game is an offensive line that can open up holes. Not exactly our line’s strong point. Remember, though, the Packers will get back Bulaga at RT (or LT) and Lang will be fully healthy. EDS is an upgrade over Saturday. And it appears evident that the Packers are going to do whatever it takes to get better production out of the LT spot. So there is hope that the line-play will be better next season. And you can’t overlook the fact that talented running backs can take advantage of what the line does give them with better vision than the hesitant Starks and Green.
By all accounts, Datone Jones appears to be a great fit for the DE spot – a critical piece to the success of our defense. But, the additions of Lacy and Franklin should excite Packers Nation. An already dangerous offense just got significantly better. September 8 can’t get here soon enough!