Ryan Grant Signing Makes Sense for Packers

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Ryan Grant
Ryan Grant is the best option for the Green Bay Packers at this point.

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.

 

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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  • SchenySchen

    Most importantly, Grant is a no-nonsense, north/south runner that will make quick decisions and go. It will be good for Green to watch that technique. Yes Grant is physically limited but we all have watched plays this season where we left yards on the field because Green/Starks danced too much or wasted steps. Grant doesn’t do that. I love the signing for this time in the season. GoPack!

    • Oppy

      SCheny, Grant USED to be a decisive, get north and south back. Since about 2009, he started getting horribly indecisive, often stammering and stuttering about behind the O line, before culminating in running right up the back of a Guard or Tackle, getting tangled up and stymied, and then tackled for a short gain when more yards were left out on the field.

      That being said, I did think Grant’s performance in the second half of the 2011 season was kind of a “bounce-back” for him- for the first time in YEARS he seemed to be more decisive, fighting through first contact, and actually showed so me burst.

      I can’t say I was shocked that he was allowed to go elsewhere, but I did think he showed enough improvement in his game during late 2011 to warrant consideration for re-signing, if the price was right.

      I hope Grant is ready to quiet the nay-sayers. There’s got to be a reason no one picked him up in the offseason and there’s got to be a reason Washington looked at him, gave him limited opportunities, and then ultimately passed on him.

      • Chad Toporski

        Most running backs really only thrive in certain offensive systems, depending on their body type and running style. Grant is no exception, and I think th Packers have shown that this is an offense he can be productive in. Not being picked up by other teams could just be an indication that he wasn’t the right fit for what they do.

        • Oppy

          Fair enough.

          Grant HAS been productive in this system, you’re correct, it’s proven.

          But then, the Packers also allowed him to walk from a system he’s produced in during the past, too.

          As someone else mentioned, the Packers side stepped Grant when Benson went down and signed a project player in White. That has to raise a question about his current ability, system or no.

          Again, I hope he performs, I thought he did well enough late last season. I just think the Packers believe he’s on the downside of his career and not worth much coin or a roster spot in the big picture. Really hope Grant proves them wrong.. at least, for the rest of the season

          • Chad Toporski

            “I just think the Packers believe he’s on the downside of his career and not worth much coin or a roster spot in the big picture.”

            Key point right there.

            Here’s another thought… Maybe other teams aren’t as patient or maybe they don’t like to settle for less when it comes to their RBs like the Packers do.

            • Bubbaloo

              Maybe, maybe, maybe! Right now the Packers needed someone that could step in and play, AND help protect Rodger! Grant was the obvious choice! He knows the system, and while he’s not the Ryan Grant of old, he did rum for 200+ yds against the Seahawks in a snow covered playoff game a few years ago! Anyone check the weather forecast?

              • Bubbaloo

                Whew, typos, sorry!

  • alex parkhurst

    Running sets up our passing game and protects Number 12. When we can’t run our line has a miserbale time in trying to protect Rodgers. Why? Because front fours just rush our QB and let their linebackers take care of our weak running. We don’t need 200 yards rushing, but we have to average 3 or 4 yards a carry when we do run or we lose games.

    • Oppy

      Side note on our running game setting up our passing game:

      Anyone remember last season, Aaron Rodgers defiantly telling the press- when asked about the struggling ground attack- that he thinks the Packers have proven you don’t need to run the ball to be an effective offense?? It made variations of this response more than once.

      This season, he’s been signing a different tune, since mid-preseason, almost pointing a finger at the run game and calling them out, saying the RB and OLmen need to step it up and perform.

      I just find it an interesting flip-flop.

      • Oppy

        my typos are atrocious

      • Chad Toporski

        Quite interesting. Though I think they were also running the ball a little bit better last season, too.

        What it could also signify is that there’s no single line that you can define between a running game that works and one that doesn’t. There are other factors within the offense that dictate how much production you’ll need from the running backs, and even with the Packers, that can change from year to year.

        • Oppy

          Good point, that is very true.

          However, I wonder how much of it is “When I’m completing passes and breaking off huge chunks of yardage, it’s me and the WR corps getting it done, we’re unstoppable. When I’m not moving the ball at will, it’s because the running game isn’t holding up their end of the bargain.”

  • cow42

    old.
    slow.
    broken.
    non-factor.

    • Oppy

      Cow,
      are you talking about Ryan Grant, or your pessimistic commentary style?
      ;)

  • Tarynfor12

    I thoughtand still think money is what showed the door to Grant and the Packers felt keeping Driver was a more obvious choice for both the offense and the fans for whatever that meant in Drivers signing.

    However,I was and still against the DD signing and feel he was a roster detriment considering we could have been obliging another lineman in getting experience which is now as lacking as the upside of keeping Driver to date.

    Grant I assume wanted too much money for any team to sign him and even the tryouts I venture were doomed due to the money based on what he would actually contribute to any of those teams who had full RB crews less Det but that goes without saying.

    When Benson got hurt I can only sense that Grants demand as to money hadn’t yet decreased enough for us to grab him as we opted for Johnny White from Buffalo I believe and were willing to ride with Green,Kuhn,Cobb here and there and the returning Starks a few weeks later.But,once again the curse reared its head with Starks on a very nasty hit against the Vikings which left the Packers in even a more dire place than either O or D Lines.

    I don’t know what the money is but I’m glad he was available for whatever the cost this time of year.

    He’ll make enough plays to warrant the arguement of returning next season for many and again he’ll lose out to another veteran who will garner the same deal(not money) and sentimental favor from the fans as did and was bestowed upon DD which will again prove a wrong move and the wasting of a roster spot yet again…oh,that would be Woodson.
    So welcome back Ryan and play well so many who opted DD over you can eat some humbling pie if only for a short time until the rerun of that episode with Chuckie behind your gashing once again.

    • Oppy

      I do not believe that there was a debate about keeping either Grant or Driver.

      I suspect it was two entirely separate and distinct business decisions.

      If anything, I agree that it was a money issue with Grant, but not because they could only afford to pay Grant or Driver. Most likely the Packers had evaluated Grant’s talent and production coupled with his age and projected remaining shelf life, considered what they believe they have in the other RBs, and assigned a dollar-amount value to him as a player. Remember, Grant already took a big pay cut during the pre-season just to stick around with the Packers for 2011- he almost didn’t make the roster, save for the pay decrease.

      No, I don’t think it was an either-or situation. It was a “We don’t value your services as much as your representation does” situation. The Packers might not have even made him an offer, content with have young, promising backs.

      • Tarynfor12

        AS you said,

        “Most likely the Packers had evaluated Grant’s talent and production coupled with his age and projected remaining shelf life, considered what they believe they have in the other RBs”

        and the same had to be considered with Drivers situation to the same point considering what we had and have at the WR position.Therefore,to a degree,the decision leaned more to a choice of the two with the better leadership role the winner(hopefully)as projected production and shelf life was much flawed,thus the decision was still decapitating either way.

        But I cannot help but feel that the leadership role if as poignant as believed,would have been much better served via the RBs than the WR positions when looking at the depth chart of each.

        The keeping of one over the other can be argued as to the whys but the results are clear to me at least,that the team kept and released the wrong ones.

  • PatMc

    I agree with Tarynfort12. I hope that Ryan runs with an angry attitute to “Show everyone” their mistake. I hope he get six 100 yard games for us.

    In the Draft I hope TT drafts at least 1 RB in top 3 picks. This area needs to be addressed (along with LG, S and long term center). If TT gets 2 RB’s in the draft then I’d be happy.

    I also hope that if woodson is not able to play that he retires. Both he and DD should be made coaches.

    Of course the team is leading the division! Guess the brain trust isn’t all that bad.

    • Oppy

      Being a great player does not automatically translate to being a great- or even adequate- coach.

      I’ll tell you who would probably make a great coach, IMO, but who wasn’t necessarily a great player- Brady Popinga. Burning desire for the game, breathed, ate, and lived football, also a historian of the game. Very intense.

      Players that lacked physical gifts but managed to compete in the NFL regardless may also make great coaches- Mark Tauscher fits that bill, and was also a very heady player. Side note, Tauscher never had an agent to represent himself; he negotiated his own contracts and handled all business himself.

      Again, still no guarantees either one of the guys I mentioned would end up being good coaches either. However, they have displayed attributes that relate to coaching more directly than just being good at their position.

      • Chad Toporski

        “Players that lacked physical gifts but managed to compete in the NFL regardless may also make great coaches- Mark Tauscher fits that bill, and was also a very heady player.”

        Totally agree, and I think part of the reason is that they know how to approach fixing technique. When guys do everything great naturally, they never really have to study the technique quite as much as the players that have to work harder to get reach the same level. Thus, the latter players might understand better how to make those improvements and can empathize better with the situation.

      • PatMc

        I don’t disagree with your premise. I just rather see DD and Woodson (if he is hurt) not be taking a valuable spot. Better they be made assistant coaches.

        Agree about Mark Tauscher. He had to fight all his career by using his head as much as strength.

  • Corporate cheesehead

    Rumor has it grant was not resigned due to a riff between his agent and TT awhile back. Who knows … What he does provide is a back that knows the system, the team respects, can pass block, run hard and can catch the ball … He’s not the future answer but hopefully will be the all purpose duct tape needed to hold the rb group together into the playoffs …

    • Bubbaloo

      I think I read about what you’re talking about, and I might have read it here! The story I remember was something about how the Packers felt Grant tried to “hold them hostage” for big bucks when he was a free agent a few years ago, and they didn’t like it! Supposedly, those hard feelings played a part into not offering Grant a contract last off-season. Who knows?

      • Big O

        I hope he’s here to play and not just go down and collect the half contract, in the last few yrs. he seamed to be realy unhappy being with the Pack, is this just a can’t find another team thing??? hope not

        • Oppy

          If he was unhappy being with the Packers, he would have never taken a pay cut to stay with the team in 2011- He would have happily let the Packers cut him and gain his freedom to go elsewhere.

          I was under the impression that Grant loved (hopefully LOVES) being a Green Bay packer. I think he was hurt mightily when the Packers allowed him to walk. What is it that made you feel he was unhappy in GB?

  • SchenySchen

    Grant was released because the Packers wanted to get Alex Green on the field and he was less expensive, more physically gifted and they felt he was ready. Grant was expendable because they had Green/Starks and Kuhn. There was no place for Grant. It is only because of the injuries to Starks that Benson was picked up. And again, it is only the injuries to Benson and Starks that we now need Grant. He is a good pickup only because he is familiar with the system and can play immediately. It is not indicative of the Packers overall feeling about him. He fills an immediate need and is inexpensive – nothing more. He will be cut at the end of the season when they no longer require his services, regardless of when that is. GoPack!

    • Oppy

      I agree, but I don’t think it was Green they wanted to get on the field (Although he’d be my choice!), it was Starks.

      Don’t forget, Alex Green is still coming off major knee reconstruction. Green only had a handful of carries his rookie year before he blew out the ACL, and he was still on a very limited snap count during preseason. Truth be told, the Packers probably woudn’t have given Green as many snaps as they have in the first half of the season if Saine didn’t go down and Starks was move available- they say those knee injuries, while you can play on them in about 8 months to a year, a player is not fully recovered for two years.

      • SchenySchen

        regarding knee injuries,tell that to adrian peterson. GoPack!