Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ryan Grant's Loss and How Ted Thompson's Philosophy May Hurt the Packers

As you know by now, the Green Bay Packers are going to be without starting running back Ryan Grant for the rest of the season. He was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, and now Brandon Jackson is the Packers' starting running back.

Be alarmed, Packer fans. Be alarmed. Jackson might be a hair faster than Grant, but it's not much, and it doesn't make up for the fact that he's not as stout and he lacks the vision and sense required for the zone running game Green Bay employs.

Apparently, so does every running back on Earth that you've heard of.

Instead of going after a name guy -- Willie Parker and J.J. Arrington are free agents, while Marshawn Lynch is widely thought to be available for the right price in a trade -- general manager Ted Thompson is going with Jackson as his starter, and some guy named Dimitri Nance as the backup. Nance was on the Atlanta Falcons practice squad and is a rookie. You've probably never heard of him, and that's okay.

Neither has anybody else, except Thompson, apparently.

I think Thompson has done a pretty good job for the most part, but there are areas he sorely lacks in. One of them is the willingness to make a deal to improve this team on the fly. He's content to promote, rather than make trades and potentially give up draft picks.

His stubborn insistence on keeping his own high picks around has led to the Packers' lack of depth on the defensive line (Justin Harrell just couldn't be let go under any circumstances), and has them holding a $4 million per year linebacker on the sideline (A.J. Hawk).

Even with his star quarterback trying to get Lynch to Green Bay, you know Thompson won't do it. This isn't his style. He'd rather roll the dice on some kid from a practice squad ... for better or for worse.

What it means -- at least in the short-term -- is that Green Bay is stuck with Jackson. The fourth-year pro is still short of 700 yards in his NFL career. He's a better receiver than Grant, which might play a factor in how the offense is run by Mike McCarthy.

We're totally unsure how they'll use Nance. He's a tough, powerful back who could be helpful in goal-line situations, but Jackson stands to get the bulk of the work, and we don't know how he'll handle that, given that it has yet to happen in the NFL.

In the end, the season will be defined by a number of factors, most notably how the offensive line plays and if the pass defense improves. Grant's injury adds a new dimension to the season, though. Now, we get to find out exactly how valuable a piece Grant was to the offense ... and how wise Thompson was to draft Jackson in 2007. Early returns are less than overwhelming, but now Jackson really gets a shot at proving himself on the big stage.

If he flops, Nance sure isn't going to save this team ... no matter how much of a diamond in the rough he may be.

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