Ryan Grant — RB of the Future

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There has been much discussion about Ryan Grant over the past six weeks, and one of the key questions is this: Can Grant be the Packers’ running back next year and the year after that? Or is a good fill-in who simply runs through gaping holes created by a spread offense?

I’m not exactly objective in the matter, as I liked Grant before the Packers acquired him. But there is growing evidence, in my view, that he is a very good running back. Of course he did well yesterday against Oakland (30th in run defense), but as we pointed out last week, he also did well against Minnesota, Detroit and Dallas, all of whom ranked among the Top 10 rushing defenses when the Packers played them. And he has four 100-yard games in six starts.

Jason Wilde gives us an interesting statistic about the Packer running game since the win at Denver. “Entering that game, the Packers were averaging 65.7 yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry. Since Grant took over, they ‘ve averaged 115.6 yards per game and 4.5 yards per rush.”

Mike McCarthy: “I can’t say enough about Ryan Grant. I think he’s really coming into his own. You can see the comfort level that he has.”

Brett Favre: “I think he’s legit. He really can play…What we did today, to me, was as impressive as anything we’ve done this year.”

Here’s more of what McCarthy says about Grant. (It’s from a subscriber-only article by Bob McGinn at Packer Insider.) “I hope so.”

“Thing I like about him, he improves every chance he gets…I haven’t just cut this guy loose and run him 25 or 30 times, but I think he can be a 20 to 25 rush a game guy. He’s only going to get better.

Asked if Grant is a legitimate starting running back, McCarthy responded: “I think he can be. I think he needs to get a little stronger. He has the frame to do it…It was a great trade, especially at that time (Sept. 1). You usually don’t hit those. Great kid, too. Class act. Smart. Tough.”

But McGinn also got comment from a “personnel man” from the NFC East, who said: “Grant is doing well for them, but I don’t think by any means is he a legitimate starting running back in the NFL…He’s a crease runner. Runs hard in a crease and has some strength. But I think if you’re going into next year saying, ‘This is our guy,’ I don’t think many people will be scared of you.”

Another personnel guy echoed that point, going so far as to say that Ted Thompson has to draft a running back next year. “He’s probably better than I thought. But he’s run through some giant holes. He doesn’t have to face many eight-man fronts. I think Ted has to get a back.”

Sorry, I think they’re wrong. The offensive line has done better lately that it did at the beginning of the year. But not that much better. Does anyone think that either Brandon Jackson or Vernand Morency would be getting the same numbers Grant is getting? Of course not. (And, it must be said, that these guys have an incentive in downplaying Grant’s abilities as they, along with everyone else, overlooked him.)

I love that these personnel guys seem to think that their opinions matter more than performances on the field. If that were the case, David Carr would be a Pro-Bowler, Tim Couch would be in the Hall of Fame, Bob Sanders would washing cars somewhere, and Ryan Grant might be selling real estate.

Instead, he might be a 1000-yard rusher after starting only half the season.

UPDATE: More from Tom Pelissero here. A statistic that was true two games ago is true once again: Nobody in the NFL has rushed for more yards than Grant since Grant became the starter.

UPDATE II: Still more here, from Greg Bedard.

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