Assigning fault for the running game

by
  • Aaron Rodgers’ obvious hand-off style – 7%.
  • The offensive line – 53%.
  • Ryan Grant not hitting the holes (or like last night, just running straight into defenders instead of around them) – 22%
  • The fullbacks, players who seem to have been immune to criticism somehow – 18%

(Officially and scientifically calculated percentages…) We’ve talked plenty here re O-Line problems and Grant not getting it done. But last night it seemed extra evident to me that FB John Kuhn wasn’t getting the job done either. I know it’s hard to account for players like LB Briggs, but on 2 obvious occasions, Kuhn couldn’t even get a chip block on him and both times, grant lost 2 or more yards. And there were several other plays where Kuhn seemed to arrive at the point of attack too late. Right now, no player acting as a FB on our roster was a FB in college. Maybe that’s the problem. Kuhn was a halfback and Hall was a linebacker. Also, our TE-acting-as-FB-experiment seems to be an ill-conceived one as we’re essentially asking our TEs to play another position. While conceptually it may not be a stretch to ask a TE to block because they do that anyway, it is quite a different thing to block in the backfield vs the line of scrimmage. Picking up a quality veteran FB may need to be an off-season task. (Though kind of like the offensive line, what seems weird about this year is that last year, FB deficiencies did not seem to be as apparent, if at all. Maybe Hall is good and Kuhn’s not…not sure).

(Side Note: One thing I found interesting from earlier in the year was some article I read about Tomlinson in San Diego openly criticizing the SD front office for getting rid of FB Lorenzo Neal in the off-season. Tomlinson said at one point he believes that move has cost the team hundreds of rushing yards this year.)

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12 Responses to “Assigning fault for the running game”

  1. Aaron Says:

    I disagree about Rodgers hand-off style (unless that’s supposed to be a joke) – Peyton Manning does the same thing. It’s supposed to be used to set up bootlegs and fakes later in the game. Trouble is – McCarthy never seems to get around to calling those plays.

    Otherwise – your calculations are correct. ;)

  2. awhayes Says:

    Aaron – I actually think Manning’s hand-off style is a problem too. In fact, I have seen Manning fall over because he’s running laterally and reaching so far to hand it off. I also would point out that the Colts don’t have a good running game anyway. Only back in 2006 did Addai do any damage on the ground for them. Their running game should be a lot more effective than it is based simply on the fact that opposing defenses spend so much time worrying about Manning and his ability to get the ball to a variety of WRs.

  3. Scott W Says:

    Is this the time we stick a fork in the zone-blocking scheme? We’re what, three years into this experiment and the evidence strongly indicates this scheme is not working. Jags, who was a strong proponent in that scheme, is at Boston College.
    I wonder if Philbin “gets it” the way Jags did.

  4. Aaron Says:

    Andy – You think the former NFL-MVP, in the running for another one, Super Bowl champion quarterback’s hand-off style is a problem? Cool.

  5. 56Coop Says:

    As I said in another string–go study Matt Ryan if you wish to see a ball handling master.

  6. awhayes Says:

    Yes, I do. Manning has been a very good QB over his career mostly because he can read defenses and pass very effectively (though I’m still baffled by how infrequently he throws an actual spiral). But I don’t think that means it makes him automatically good at every facet of quarterbacking (his mobility is another factor where he lags). One other difference though with Manning is that their offense does use a lot of play action and faking, which makes his doing that a tiny bit more useful.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not assigning huge fault here to Rodgers nor would I to Manning for their team’s running game woes. In fact, I’m assigning just 7%. So I don’t think this is that big of a deal. What I am saying is that it is a small factor because it gives defenses a quick tip as to which way the play will be going. You are right, when there is a fake, it tends to be effective because the opposing defense has become so accustomed to just following what is so obvious. But as you pointed out, what’s the point of doing that if we rarely fake and how could we justify running a bunch of predictable running plays just for the chance that we’ll catch someone off guard with a fake later. My point is that by showing clearly THAT he’s handing off as well as WHICH DIRECTION he’s handing off, it makes playing defense easier than if he would be a bit more discreet about it. Even pitching it back might be more discreet because it happens faster giving the defense less time to react.

  7. awhayes Says:

    fyi – here is 56Coop’s early offering on another post:

    I would love to see Rodgers take the whole offseason and study Matt Ryan’s stye of handing off the ball and just ball handling after his centers snap in general. The kid is a genious. He actually flips the ball to from hand to the other and simultaneously uses the hand he just flipped the ball from to fake a handoff. Absolutely amazing. Farve could get by with his obvious style of hand off because he could just turn right around and hit one down the field. Rodgers needs to work on his long ball. Countless times this year he’s had Jennings, Driver, Lee or any of our receivers streaking down the field one or two steps ahead of the defenders and Aaron overthrew them. Overall though, I’m comfortable with Aaron as our QB provided he doesn;t get that ‘I just can’t win the close games” syndrome in his head.”

  8. DaveK Says:

    I think a fullback’s job gets much harder when the line plays poorly. The last time the Packers ran well was the first Bear’s game. In that game the FB’s were getting through the hole and blocking guys in the 2nd level. Grant just followed behind. Last night and for much of this season it seems that the line is getting pushed around and the FB doesn’t even get close to the second level and then tries to simply find a hat to hit at the line or even behind it. The FB also needs a lane to be effective.

    You assigned some blame to Rodgers but only for his handoff style. I would contend that he also gets some blame for the lack of production in the run game in that he just is not as effective at quickly reading and dissecting defenses as Favre was last year. Whether it was finding a hot route, changing the play, finding a TE in a seam, or dumping a pass to Grant I think Favre was better at keeping a defense on their heals more and their LB’s off the line of scrimmage and out of the backfield. I think Rodgers is a good QB and I am glad we have him but I think he is less effective this year in keeping a defense guessing then Favre was last year. Maybe not a huge drop off but enough that I think it adversely effected the running game this year.

  9. sfhayes Says:

    Aaron, I don’t think Manning’s handoff style is quite the problem that Andy does (though I don’t buy the rationale for doing it). But if we judge from the results, it’s not good. Both Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes are averaging less than 3.6 yards/carry. FWIW.

  10. sfhayes Says:

    And I agree with 56coop on Matt Ryan. He is the master. Look at the network cameramen (and camerawomen?) — they’re professionals and they are often fooled by Ryan.

  11. The Choj Says:

    how soon we forget that Favre handed off the EXACT same way!

  12. awhayes Says:

    The Choj – haven’t forgotten Favre’s issues with this either. It used to drive me nuts.

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