When Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin broke the news this week that the Green Bay Packers were bringing back familiar veteran Ryan Grant, it quickly spread like wildfire across the internet. After choosing not to resign Grant in the offseason, the Packers made it clear that they were ready to move on. And to seemingly add insult to injury, Ted Thompson picked up free agent Cedric Benson during preseason to help boost their running back corps.
Now, it seems, we have come full circle. With the knee injury sustained by James Starks on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, the Packers became very thin at the position when looking at starting talent. It was obvious they needed to do something to again help the group out, and the signing of Ryan Grant was arguably the best option they had.
So after an offseason of speculating where Ryan Grant would end up, we find ourselves almost back where we began.
What I find a bit surprising, however, is the extremely mixed feedback from fans in regard to this signing. As I look across comments sections on blog posts and remarks on Twitter, it’s clear that people have very strong opinions about this move by Ted Thompson.
On Facebook, the 540 ESPN page even posted a fill-in-the-blank statement to get people’s opinions. It read: “The return of Ryan Grant is __________.” The comments made by fans were pretty stark: “desperate,” “awesome,” “necessary,” “boring,” “interesting,” “reasonable,” and even “a necessary evil.”
Does this speak to how fans feel about Ryan Grant, or does it speak more to how they feel about the situation the Packers have found themselves in? Either way, I have to disagree with anyone who says this was a bad move by Thompson.
First and foremost, Grant is someone who is extremely familiar with the Green Bay Packers offense. He made his debut with the team in 2007 and was the feature back until his ankle injury in the first game of 2010. Considering there are only four weeks left in the regular season, the Packers are serving themselves better by bringing in a player who won’t need much adjusting to the scheme. The next two games are arguably the most important for the Packers at this point, and Grant could conceivably play this Sunday if needed.
If the Packers were to bring in a running back with no experience in Mike McCarthy’s system, it would take some time before they could be trusted to handle the calls, especially when it comes to pass protecting for Aaron Rodgers.
Next, Ryan Grant is a fairly low-mileage running back. In his six years as an NFL player, Grant only has 925 carries and 92 receptions. Last year he only boasted 134 carries, and this season he’s had just one rushing attempt with the Washington Redskins. Despite turning 30-years-old this Sunday, Grant hasn’t been run into the ground like many of the big-name backs around the league. Adrian Peterson, for example, has had 1,640 carries in his six-year career with 173 receptions. And even though Cedric Benson is about the same age as Grant, he’s been in the NFL two years longer.
Now, some people would rather have seen Ted Thompson bring in a running back who could make more plays on the field. Even though Ryan Grant has carried the load for the Packers over the years, he’s never been a flashy or exciting player. In fact, there have often been some very frustrating moments with him.
At this point in the season, however, there really aren’t any better options. When Zach Kruse over at CheeseheadTV examined some of the top free agent running backs available, there weren’t really any guys with significant up-side. Players like Tim Hightower, Joseph Addai, Mewelde Moore, and Steve Slaton might have brought some more interest in the past, but they’ve since proven that they’re not much more than a familiar name. Going into the fourteenth week of the season, the pickings are slim for any roster position.
And I can’t see the Packers bringing in a younger back with the playoffs looming in the distance. They need some veteran leadership and experience.
I understand – and completely agree – that Ryan Grant is not a “sexy” pickup by Ted Thompson. There’s a chance he won’t be as effective as he has been in the past, despite his career average 4.3 yards per carry. Still, it’s the most sensible pick when it comes to Green Bay’s situation. They’re not in a position to take a lot of risk with their playoff hopes when they’re already running thin on the roster, and they can’t afford an adjustment period for someone unfamiliar with the offense.
Ryan Grant knows the Packers, and the Packers know Ryan Grant. (He did, after all, get a standing ovation upon his return.) I have faith that they’ll get the job done, even if it’s not as convincing as we’d like it to be.