Which Running Back Gives Packers Best Chance to Win?

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Does James Starks give the Packers the best chance to win?

The Green Bay Packers have the most potent passing game in the NFL heading into the 2012 season.  While their pass-happy offense with Aaron Rodgers and his ridiculous amount of weapons in certainly impressive, the same can’t be said for their running backs and their ground game.

If Green Bay wants to improve off an impressive 2011 regular season that ended in playoff disappointment, I believe they key lies in the ground game.  Today we’ll take an in-depth look at which running back currently on the Packers’ roster gives the team the best chance to win week-in, week-out.

 

James Starks

Starks will likely enter training camp and the preseason as the top running back on the depth chart for the Green Bay Packers.  While his 2011 season wasn’t quite what everyone expected after completely blowing up during the 2010 playoffs, he is still the most experienced and game-proven running back on the roster.

There is a lot to like about Starks’ overall game.  He has the physicality to pound the ball up the middle, but can also bounce outside and pick up a chunk of yards in the open field.  Starks also has good enough hands and the ability to make plays in the open field to be a threat as a receiver.

If there is any aspect of Starks’ game that needs to improve it is his blocking.  He’ll often miss assignments and appear unwilling to lay out his body in order to make the necessary block.  There are also questions about his ability to consistently find the end zone, as Starks only had one overall touchdown during the 2011 season.

 

Brandon Saine

Thanks to some injuries during the 2011 season, Saine was given the chance to get on the field and show the Packers what he is capable of bringing to the table.  Even though he only received 18 carries during the regular season, Saine showed enough to Green Bay that they didn’t feel they needed to retain Ryan Grant heading into the 2012 NFL season.

Saine has a good all-round game as a runner, receiver and blocker.  He isn’t necessarily a speedy back, but is quick and shifty enough to make defenders miss in the open field.

Where Saine is most valuable is as a receiver out of the backfield.  He had 10 receptions and one touchdown out of the backfield in his limited playing time.  With Green Bay looking to pass as much as possible, that type of ability could help Saine get a major increase of playing time during the 2012 season.

 

Alex Green

Green is the wild-card of the bunch, as we haven’t really seen what he can bring to the table because of injuries that sidelined him for all but four games during the 2011 campaign.

Green was a highly regarded prospect coming out of college, and was good enough to warrant a third-round selection by Ted Thompson.  Coming out of college, Green was considered a complete running back, but he especially excelled at catching the ball out of the backfield.  He playing in a pass-heavy offense at the University of Hawaii, and he was seen as the perfect complement to the Packers’ offense.

It will be interesting to see how much playing time Green is able to muster with the first-team during training camps and the preseason.  If he shows some flashes of brilliance, he could become quite the weapon for the Packers.

 

So, who gives the Packers the best chance to win?  

This certainly isn’t an easy choice, but of all the running backs currently on the Packers’ roster, James Starks gives Green Bay the best chance to win week-in and week-out.

While it would have been nice for Green Bay to bring in another running back during the 2012 NFL draft, they obviously feel confident enough about their current players to have not seen that as necessary.  The most likely scenario for the Packers is to give each of their three running backs playing time.

We could see Starks get the majority of the playing time with Saine and Green coming in as a third-down back or only on specific passing plays.  With that said, if Saine and Green can develop and reach their full potential, they could force Green Bay to take away some playing time from Starks.

Either way, the running game will once again take a backseat to the passing game in Green Bay, and any production they can get from Starks, Saine and Green will be an added bonus for the team.

  • alex parkhurst

    Brandon Saine is not a speedy back? Maybe he “runs slow” in football, but he still holds the Ohio High School 100 meter record of 10.38.

    http://www.ohsaa.org/sports/records/tfrecrd.htm

    In comparison Jordy Nelson still holds the Kansas Class 3A record in 10.63.

    http://www.kshsaa.org/Public/Track/Records.cfm

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Running backs don’t get to show their straight line speed unless they’ve first successfully navigated through the defense. that’s where quickness and lateral movement comes into play. I think Saine has a good amount of both. My one criticism from what I saw last year was decision-making. I thought he made a good number of cuts that took him into tacklers rather than avoiding them. But that is something he will learn with experience.

      • Josh

        Agreed. Saine was baptized by fire. Lets not forget that. I think this offseason and learning more of the offense will result in some big gains for him. He has the size, body, and speed for the position. Now its just up to that offensive line…

        • Savage57

          The first two yards of a RB’s average per carry are on the offensive line. Everything after that is on the RB – vision, shiftiness, acceleration, ability to break tackles, downhill running style.

          Given what’s happened with Grant and Starks, I am thinking that Saine is going to get a lot more touches this year and I hope he capitalizes on them.

  • pointerjeff

    If Saine isn’t speedy, please detail what is speedy? He currently holds the Ohio Division I record in the 100-meter dash, with a time of 10.38, which he set in 2006. He had four state track titles and a national championship in the 60-meter dash. Also he has been unoffically timed at 4.2 in the 40.

  • Ron LC

    Obviously, Starks is the most talented runner and IF he stays healthy this year he will add a demension to the Packer offense that has beeen lacking. Unfortunately, he seems to be another of those guys who are just snake-bitten.

    I’m going with Green and hoping that his injury was an anomoly. He has good speed and excellent power. Also he comes out of the backfield with a full head of steam on screens.

    Saine was a steady, contolled, and reliable runner. He adds the reliablity to be a good backup.

  • Nerdmann

    Yeah I thought Saine was a speedster. He’s like Green, only more raw. He can catch screens, make a guy miss and get upfield.

    You forgot that undrafted guy they picked up. Tyler. Dude has potential.

  • Lou

    All 3 are question marks, Starks can’t stay on the field, lacks breakaway speed and as indicated misses assignments. Saine is solid but was not a featured back even at OSU (by the way, no one has run a 4.2 forty since Deon Sanders). Green has 3 down talent but ACL’s don’t heal in a year. They should have resigned Grant, a real pro who finished strong and does still have breakaway speed.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Deion Sanders time was 4.27 at the combine, as a point of comparison Chris Johnson ran a 4.24, which is supposedly the fastest time ever recorded at a combine (pro-days can be a little harder to compare since it’s different conditions at every location). I’m not sure it’s physically possible for anyone to run at or under 4.2

      • Oppy

        Thomas, you may want to check that out with that Usain Bolt character :)

        • Josh

          Yeah just the math says Bolt is running a sub 4.2 40. 9.58 hundred meters is ridiculous. Remember a meter is longer than a yard, too. His 40 time is ~3.97

          • Oppy

            Actually, looking a little further into it, a key factor is that Bolt is still accelerating up until somewhere around 50-65 yards- many people familiar with the sport claim if Bolt were to run a 40 yard dash, he might “only” clock in around 4.2-4.3, because sprinters of his type train for longer acceleration and then a longer duration of top speed than the all-out, pure acceleration of a 40 yard dash.

  • http://yahoo.com Scott

    Aaron Rodgers is the Packers best running back.

    • PackersRS

      The RB that gives the Packers the best chance to win is the one who blocks better.

      Runing the ball in this Packers offense is situational.

      • Ron LC

        YEP!

      • Josh

        Maybe so, but the coaches have put an emphasis on running the ball this year so someone better pick their sack up and get the job done. Its the reason why we lost the games we did last year.

        • PackersRS

          Disagree. Fumbling 4 times, dropping the ball 5 times and not playing defense was the reason we lost the games.

  • ELo

    Green does seem the perfect compliment for our pass-oriented offense. When you look at his highlight tapes, most of his big gains came off the draw play.

  • Big T

    Starks has something lodged in his anus… He is just not the same runner anymore. However he still beats ole fumble itis Grant

  • http://packers.blogspot.com Brandon

    It’s not going to hurt the offense, but this position is just blah. All I’m hoping for is a running back who can block and protect the ball.

    Though Alex Green is coming back this season, it usually takes more than one year to get back to 100% from an ACL tear. He might not emerge until 2013.

    That would leave James Starks. I like it that he rarely fumbles. And as you said, he does need to work on his blocking. I would like to see him bust out a big touchdown run; he doesn’t seem to be much of a Home Run threat.

    Marc Tyler’s got my attention, and I’m waiting for the preseason to see if Brandon Saine’s improved. They could both turn out to be better than Starks, but it hasn’t happened yet.

    • Steve Cheez

      Brandon, you touched on two of the things I was going to mention: pass blocking and ball security. In our offense, I think those are just as important for a RB as power or breakaway speed.

    • PackersRS

      Disagree that Starks needs to improve his blocking. Every player needs to improve every year, but his problem last year was assignment, not blocking.

      http://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2012/03/30/2011-pass-blocking-efficiency-running-backs/

      He was on 71 pass blocking snaps, and allowed just 2 pressures all year. It so happens that both times he missed the assignement and Rodgers was taken to the ground, but regardless, only 2 pressures in 71 snaps is terrific.

  • Tom88

    Starks is a lot better then most of you are giving him credit for. He avg 4.5 yards a carry which is pretty damn good for a NFL running back. The only problem is he struggles with pass blocking, and selling the play action. However only running what, an avg of 8 times a game can really stop you from getting into a groove. Think of the running backs who run 15-20 times a game, most can be low yardage but if they break one 20 to 40 yard run it makes the rest look better. So for 4.5 yards a carry on only 8 carries a game I can dig it and cant wait to see what he can do getting Grants share of the ball as well. Like they say the more swings as bat you have the more likely you will hit a homer. So give starks more carries and the odds are he will show us some nice things.

    • Josh

      Starks is a decent RB. He’s just got a sloppy running style with a ton of wasted motion resulting in a loss of speed. He really needs to tighten it up. Needs better pad level. He should have these things down by now but just isn’t getting it.

  • Turophile

    I’d say that with the popularity of the ‘platoon’ running back, at least two of the above will regularly be on the field and very likely all three, if they are healthy. Health will have a key role to play, probably THE key decider on who plays most through the season. At present I’d go Starks for most carries early, Saine just about gets the most in the mid season and Green gets most later in the season (and through the playoffs, heh)

  • Josh

    To say Saine isn’t a speedy back is incorrect. He is a track champion and has been clocked at 4.4 in the 40, and was “unofficially” clocked at a 4.25. He’s probably faster than anyone on the Packers roster right now.

    • Oppy

      Sam Shields is a bonafide mid-to-high 4.3 sprinter.

  • Dustin

    BJ Raji

  • CJ

    Look at the RB rookie from Minnesota, could be a find.

  • Dean Somerville

    Keep putting out the questions Al.

    Football not Dancing is important to Football fans.

    Next question might need to be a poll….. what day to the Packers cut Driver the Dancing Machine?

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Well hello Dean! Great to hear from you again…

      The Driver question has been discussed here quite a bit. Most are leaning towards the Packers offering him a restructured contract. Whether he is on the team in September is a different question…