Xs and Os: Packers Running Game from Substitution Packages

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Packers running back Johnathan Franklin had a career day against the Cincinnati Bengals while running out of substitution packages.

The key to the Green Bay Packers’ offensive success is having the ability to run or pass out of any personnel grouping and formation, especially with multiple wide receivers on the field.

This means, in order to achieve offensive balance, the Packers must be able to run out of passing formations with substitution packages.

A substitution package is when the offense deploys different personnel than their base 21 group (2 running backs, 1 tight end, and 2 wide receivers. The Packers like running the 11 (1 running back, 1 tight end, and 3 wide receivers) and the 10 personnel groupings (1 running back, 0 tight ends, 4 wide receivers) on any down and distance.

Obviously, not having an extra running back (the fullback) or tight end (or H-back) on the field could pose a schematic disadvantage in the running game by having fewer bigger bodies on the field.

However, with the use of well-designed blocking packages and willing blocks by the wide receivers, the Packers had good success with running the ball from substitution groups.

Under the tutelage of wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett, who was a former running back, the Packers receiving corps has developed into a solid group of blockers who contribute immensely to the running game. This is one of the most underrated aspects of the Packers’ offensive success.

Let’s take a look at some of the staples of this deployment.

Disclaimer 1: You know the drill by now. #YKTDBN. I have never seen Mike McCarthy’s playbook. #IHNSMMP.

Disclaimer 2: #YKTDBN. This is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes. #TIAOFIP. Different formations and defensive fronts will change the blocking rules.

11 Outside Toss Strong: This play is frequently run from shotgun 11 personnel with an offset running back to the strong side of the formation. The key to the play is to get the ball outside and away from the defensive end and Sam linebacker.


The outside wide receiver blocks down on the slot cornerback ($) and the slot receiver kicks out and sets the leverage on the strong side cornerback. Notice that the slot is further off the line of scrimmage to allow the outside receiver more time to block down.

At the snap of the ball, the quarterback pitches the ball to the running back, and depending on the slot receiver’s leverage, he will run inside or outside of the block.

11 Inside Draw: The key to this play is to sell a pass but instead run the ball past the pass rush. The offensive line sets up a pass protection look, inviting the pass rushers into the backfield. Once the rushers have set their sights on the quarterback, he hands the ball to the running back, who then squirts past the rushers who are already out of position.

To sell the pass look, the wide receivers must run down field routes. Doing so also has the bonus of pulling the defensive backs out of the box, making for a longer pursuit to the ball.

The tight end chips the defensive end and then pursues the Sam linebacker.


Once the running back has the ball, he runs through the inside lanes. If selling the pass worked, and everyone correctly did their blocking assignments, the running back only has one man to beat in the box, which is the Will linebacker. A one-on-one match up is the best a pro offense can expect. It’s up to the running back to make the defender miss or break a tackle.

The video below is from when rookie running back Johnathan Franklin announced his presence with authority against the Cincinnati Bengals. With Eddie Lacy out with a concussion, and after losing James Starks during the game to an injury, the Packers relied on Franklin to carry the running load.

Since Franklin is a smaller back, he’s not suited for the power running game. Therefore, the Packers played the majority of the game from the substitution package with Franklin on the field.

Many of his runs were the toss and inside draw. Notice how the wide receivers were heavily involved with the blocking.

Disclaimer 3: Some of the looks in the video are different from the plays I drew above. However, they are all variations of the same base plays. For example, rather than keeping the tight end inline, they may slide him into the backfield as an H-back, but his blocking assignments are often the same.

Eddie Lacy and James Starks are equally effective out of the substitution package, so hopefully we can expect big things from the Packers offense in 2014.



Jay Hodgson is an independent sports blogger writing for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WISports.com.

Follow Jay on twitter at @jys_h.


13 thoughts on “Xs and Os: Packers Running Game from Substitution Packages

  1. Showed everything that the fans thought he’d bring to the Packers running game when he called “a steal”, in the 4th round. Bummer that he’s remembered for the fumble in that game by many.

  2. Franklin is a stud and needs to be on the field more. I can understand MM taking him out after the fumble, but to hold that permanently against him is insane. How many blocks did Newhouse miss and MM would just give him a tap on the butt and say “I still love you Marshall” Let Franklin on the field he will tear it up. Huge potential in Franklin, lets not waste it…

    1. I don’t think Franklin got buried on the depth chart because his fumble. I think it was because he struggled in pass protection, which is the #1 reason young running backs don’t see the field much. With a full off season, he should be able to pick up the pass rush better.

      1. The evidence says otherwise. Franklin played very well vs Cincy, but caused a loss w/ his fumble, then followed it up the following game w/ yet another fumble and was promptly benched then didn’t play the remainder of the year.

        1. Hmmmm, Yes and no…. The Packers started that game 14 points down in a blink. The fought back and we’re up by 16 points with just over 16 minutes or so to play. Forget about the points they left on the field in the red zone after all the TO’s created by the defense. Franklin’s fumble ultimately cost them the game, but this game was hardly lost on one play. If you recall, the Packers started to drive down the field and had over 3 1/2 minutes to score. McCarthy of course was questioned by his play calling (2 batted balls in last 4 plays).

  3. Thanks again, loving this series. And thanks for throwing the video in there!

    1. Glad you’re liking the series. I have another coming out soon with some videos!

  4. Thanks for the analysis, lots of variable in every situation. its not as easy as it looks. It gives me more understanding of the complexity within the game.

    I agree whole heartedly with those in support of Franklin. Don’t know how he got so buried on the bench. Has to be more to it than the infamous fumble, which wasn’t all his fault, and was a stupid call to begin with.

  5. The video isn’t coming up on my computer, so I’m going to ask something that may already be answered in the video. On the toss strong play, it seems like it would be difficult for the tackle to get to the strong linebacker, depending on his position. Is the extra step you get from knowing what you’re doing instead of reacting to the play enough? It seems like the success of this play could depend on that, or the S linebacker’s initial read or movement. And what if the slot CB is on a blitz? Doss the slot WR then take him?

    1. I’d think that if the slot corner blitzes, the RB blocks him and this becomes a pass play — medium or deep to the outside WR on a seam route, the part of the field left undefended because of the blitz.

      If that pass doesn’t work out, there is a check down throw to the RB after he releases from the blitzer.

  6. Franklin was my favorite player in last years draft and hid potential was on display in Cincy. I hate that some fans blame him for the loss in Cincy. The blocking was terrible as was the play of the defense. I can see him as a pass catching change of pace back for years to come with Lacy pounding and spinning his way to 1500 yards per season.

  7. Clearly the kid’s got talent. He was also a rook and rookie’s will make mistakes. Hey’ll, even the vets do sometimes. The staff knows Franklin’s a good one and he’ll get his chances soon enough.

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