It’s the O-Line, Not Grant

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Aaron at Cheesehead.tv is giving us a long “leering” look after yesterday’s game. I’m hoping that’s of the “sly” or “knowing” variety, not “desirous.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The reason? He thinks Grant sucks. He wishes we didn’t sign him to a big contract. And after Grant rushed 33 times for 90 yards on Sunday, seems to think he’s been proven right.

Nonsense.

As I wrote after the game Sunday, Grant missed a couple of holes. A couple, like two. The reality is that our offensive line has been very, very bad. There simply aren’t many holes for Grant or anyone else to run through.

After looking at the game tape, Mike McCarthy agrees. “I thought just from a decision standpoint, we grade run game decisions no different than we grade the pass protection decisions by the center, and no different than we grade the quarterback in his decision-making in the passing game, but from a decision grade, Ryan had a good day.”

Grant may end up being the bust that Aaron seems to think he is, though I’d be very surprised. But let’s reserve judgment until he actually has some holes.

To me, he looks like he has his burst back, but he’s just bursting into his own lineman. I’m guessing he has a huge day against the Colts.

ANDY ADDS: While I am not the Grant-supporter Brother Steve is, I do think he’s good with the talent to be great. And, while Brandon Jackson has certainly done well with the carries he’s had, I’m not ready to ditch Grant in favor of Jackson. I do think mixing Jackson in for a few more carries makes some sense though to give defenses a different look – but Grant still needs to be the main guy. And, while MM and others (like Brother Steve) may be looking at the O-Line, one other issue may have to do with the defenses we’re playing against. For some reason, in each of the last 4 games, the defenses we’ve played against have had a pretty good beat on where Grant was going and how to plug the holes in the zone blocking scheme. So essentially, my main concern is not that our O-Line just can’t get it together (though that is a concern), but that defenses are just better prepared to recognize running plays in this scheme. Maybe it is something the O-Line is doing to telegraph the play that’s coming, not sure. But there is just this sense I’m getting that defenses are well-prepared for what MM has coming at them. MM may need to get more creative and unleash some new plays to break that open.

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16 Responses to “It’s the O-Line, Not Grant”

  1. Aaron Says:

    So when McCarthy was talking up Jackson, it was obvious coach speak. But when he’s supporting your argument, he’s telling it like it is? Please. McCarthy is defending his player – but I don’t believe a word he’s saying.

    Just to clear things up – I don’t think Grant is a “bust” – I do think he’s an average back. I hope I’m proven wrong.

  2. Joe Says:

    Grant missed more than 2 holes. I spent the better part of the game yelling about missed cut back opportunities. The line did not do a great job but this is a read and cut run game. When there is no hole in front of you (as in the direction of the play) there is usually room to run if you cut back against the grain of the blocks. Grant made the cut back (as opposed to finding a hole in the direction the play was going) only once or twice. That is what is missing in his game. That is what made him so good last year.

    All of that said. The line has sucked and it needs to improve.

  3. Ron La Canne Says:

    Grant may or may not be a upper tier RB. I will guarantee that
    Barry Sanders would find it difficult running behind that incompetent O-line of the Packers. TT must be made to answer for his inability to get good linemen on both sides of the ball.

    If you watched the Brown’s last night, you’ll know what the key to offense is. THE O-LINE! No sacks by the feared Giant D-Line and a good enough running game to keep them off balance. If the Packers can match this play Grant will do fine. Hell, I’d be satisfied if they came reasonably close.

  4. Daniel Says:

    I like Grant, he’s not one of the Top 10 RB in the NFL but he is good enough to make great plays, running with strenght against the defenses.

    My biggest concern is the Offensive Line, Grant and Rodgers are being affected by them. Of course, Grant have more problems with that than A-Rod.

  5. Donald's Designated Driver Says:

    It’s interesting that in the last two game Grant has run with explosiveness in the first quarter and then disappeared. First quarter he finds cutback lanes and pick-ups huge gains. Thereafter he runs lackidasically into the back of his lineman and falls down.

    Now, I’m not saying he should have been breaking a lot of those runs long, but many of those 1 yard gains should have been 4 or 5 yard gains.

  6. bucky Says:

    Someone might want to check out the Packers’ offensive stats after 6 games in 2007 to see how they stack up. Ok, somebody did (me), and let me tell you, as hard as it is to believe, the running game this season is off to a noticeably better start than it was last year.

    After 6 games last season, the Packers were averaging less than 66 yards a game on the ground. They had 394 net yards rushing on 121 rushes, or 3.26 yards a carry. The longest run in the first 6 games was a 44 yarder by DeShawn Wynn, who led the team with 202 yards and a 4.1 yards a carry average.

    By contrast, this season the Packers have 591 yards rushing on 158 carries, for an average of 3.74 yards a carry and 99 yards a game. Ryan Grant leads the team with 359 yards and a 3.39 average per carry, which while not as good as Wynn’s average at this point last year, was better than the cumulative team average.

    I think there’s a couple of things going on here. First is that, similar to last season, the O-line and Ryan Grant are having trouble getting in synch. It’s kind of disappointing in light of where the team left off with the running game at the end of last season, but at least partially understandable given the injuries during training camp (both to Grant and along the line). It’s also clear that, unlike last season, when Favre would fling the ball all over the field nearly 70% of the time, McCarthy this season is trying very hard to run the ball even where it’s not clearly working. I think that’s actually a good idea that will pay dividends down the road, but it’s hard to watch sometimes.

    I don’t like the idea of subbing Jackson for Grant. Jackson does seem more elusive a runner, but I’m still not sold on his reliability in terms of picking up the blitz and catching the ball out of the backfield, as well as remembering where he’s supposed to be on every play (especially those plays where he doesn’t get the ball).

  7. joshywoshybigfatposhy Says:

    is anyone quite as baffled as me at the fact that this is the same exact f-ing line that did so well w/grant for the last 10 games last year? the o-line is bad, i admit, but no one is asking WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED? – it wasn’t perfect last year, but it was much better, and looked like it would only get better.

    is it simply the tackles getting 5 knee-years older in 1 real year? i feel like we’re in 2nd preseason game form, and at this rate, we’ll hit mid-season form (which is apparently the best players get???) sometime in … December/January? fantastic. by then, Grant will have racked up a good 600/700 yards.

    i do think it was heartening to see mccarthy stick with the run sunday. i know it’s easier when we’re ahead, but even with 2-4 yard gains, it really kept seattle honest, and the game didn’t get away from us in the 2nd half. one of my fondest memories of the superbowl years was watching levens carry the ball 15-20 times in the last third or so of the game and just wear the opposing defense down. even if it wasn’t 14 yard gains, it was enough to piss them off. yes, we had more to work with then, i know.

    i’ve been back and forth on the whole ‘run to set up the pass’ or ‘pass to set up the run’ thing. i think i’ve settled on a simple strategery that shouldn’t be misunderestimated just because i’m a dude in an office — pass-to-set-up-the-run-to-stick-with-the-run-to-allow-for-the-pass. if, by midway through the fourth quarter, you aren’t down by 14, the run should be your 1st option. i think often, (and sometimes i’ve praised his non-traditional stubbornness abou this) mccarthy has played pass-to-set-up-the-run-to-try-the-run-to-give-up-on-the-run-when-it-doesn’t-work-right-away-to-just-keep-passing. like i said, it’s worked sometimes, but it shouldn’t be a regular strategy… or is it a tactic?

  8. Aaron Rogders Says:

    If Grant is so good, how come the few run plays that Jackson and Lumpkin did have made Grant look weak? It appears that he has bulked up a little bit then last year (maybe that is just me), but it also appears that he is much slower too. I am assuming his hamstring injury is still slowing him down some.

    One other thing I thought I would throw out there, he doesn’t have Favre with him. I believe Favre scared defenses with his play action pass ability. I don’t think defenses respect the passing game as much with Rodgers as our QB. When this happens, I believe the running game will hugely benefit. Last year we were dominating teams with the passing game. Later down the season, teams had to focus more on the passing game then anything else. Also, I think Favre was a great motivator too. I haven’t notice Rodgers motivating Grant.

    So ask yourself, what is the difference in the offense between last season and now. A QB does a lot more then just throw the ball…

  9. joshywoshybigfatposhy Says:

    you know how sometimes, you start writing a comment, get distracted, and by the time you post it, someone else commented before you and basically answered your question, and made you feel at ease about the world. yeah. thanks bucky. the fact that you have stats to back it up makes it even easier to relax.

    we’ve also scored 18 more points through 6 games this season, but allowed 38 more – which explains the most relevant stat – 5 and 1 vs. 3 and 3.

    conclusion — our biggest problem is by far the defensive line. then offensive line, then the mysterious shoddy play of our great linebacker core. that’s how i see it anyhow.

  10. bucky Says:

    Lumpkin had one carry (for 19 yards). I’m pretty sure I’m not about to anoint him as the next great back based on such a small data set.

  11. Ron La Canne Says:

    You have it nailed, Josh. The skill positions are dependent, to a large degree on the lines. That is the genisus of all our problems.

  12. Aaron Rogders Says:

    I can understand running the ball a lot with Rodgers being injured. But, the Packers strength is in the PASSING game. We have the best receiving core with an accurate QB, and we are whining about the running game. You know what, who cares? Do we have to run the ball at least 30 times?? You want to see our running average go up, then continue passing the ball all game. No one has proved to shut this down yet. Run a few draw plays here and there. With everyone in zone, I can’t see why you wouldn’t be getting at least 5 yards per carry… Oh, and can you PLEASE McCarthy, remove the pass play where you throw to your receiver behind the line of scrimmage. I don’t really enjoy watching the corner running at full speed and drilling the receiver as soon as he catches the ball..

    Sorry, I just had to vent on this one.

  13. Aaron Rogders Says:

    Lumpkin was also great in preseason. I have not seen Grant run with same power as Jackson or Lumpkin. But Grant is not the same style runner either. A lot of other teams through run with two backs with different running styles. It is usually pretty successful.

  14. sfhayes Says:

    Lots of good comments here. Let me say, too, that I’m a big Ryan Grant fan. I liked him after seeing him in the preseason last year before he signed with the Packers and I was thrilled when we acquired him. And I touted him all last year and thought we should sign him to a big contract. So, yes, I’ve got a rooting interest.

    But I find it amusing that some people thought it was too early to sign Grant to a long-term deal after his extraordinary ten-game stretch last year, but now seem ready to declare him “average” after six games this year. Maybe I’m wrong, but that feels a lot more like someone trying validate their previous skepticism than giving us dispassionate analysis.

    Responding to this post, PackerAaron wrote: “So when McCarthy was talking up Jackson, it was obvious coach speak. But when he’s supporting your argument, he’s telling it like it is? Please.”

    Umm, yes. That’s exactly what it was because the situation are completely different. Before the season, McCarthy and Ted Thompson were trying to get Grant into camp and, in my view, using Jackson as a threat. It was smart. That doesn’t mean Jackson wasn’t playing better, it just means that they were touting him publicly in order to pressure Grant (and his agent) into signing. It’s a tactic that teams use every year. It’s hard to believe that anyone would doubt that that’s what was happening.

    Now, McCarthy is grading his players and, most important, he is calling them out when they don’t grade out well. He’s done that this year with Clifton and Rodgers, and if memory serves, even blamed Greg Jennings one time for running the wrong route on a Rodgers pick. So McCarthy isn’t afraid to tell us when his players — even his stars — are not playing well.

    I went back and watched most of the Grant carries. I suppose if some of you Grant skeptics are watching coach’s film you saw holes that I did not. But watching it on TV, there were very few. The worst came on a handoff to the left in the third quarter, when he missed a cutback that would have gone for huge yards — maybe a touchdown — if he had beaten their corner (who was coming on a delayed blitz).

    As McCarthy explained this morning on Sirius NFL Radio, after explaining exactly how the grading system works, Grant graded out well. The line simply didn’t create holes.

    If any of the Grant skeptics have the game DVR’d and can point to specific plays, I’ll be happy to take another look.

  15. DaveK Says:

    Wow, a lot of good posts on this topic. I honestly can’t tell you if the the problem is Grant or the line. I wish I had copy of all the run plays to review. There doesn’t seem to be very many lanes to run through but Jackson does seem to have better success when subbed in for Grant. I don’t know….Our run game was very poor for the first part of the season last year also and not until MM all but scrapped it did things sort of turn around.

    Someone made the point that defenses seem to be better at diagnosing our plays and sniffing out run plays. I have to agree with that. Maybe it is the quality of the defenses we have played this year or maybe the team has let their tendencies become too predictable. Or, maybe the Packers do not have a QB that audibles enough into or out of run plays depending on how the defense lines up. It seems to me that Rodgers doesn’t audible as much as Favre and maybe that contributes to D’s having a better guess on what is coming. ??

  16. Blog Battle! PackerGeek Style… | Cheesehead TV Says:

    […] not one, but two posts dedicated to my obvious failings in the running back evaluation department, Steve […]

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