Cory’s Corner: Running back position is on life support All Green Bay Packers All the Time

We all know what the NFL has become.

It’s a week-to-week aerial circus that promotes scoring and keeps fans interested with countless big plays.

LeSean McCoy is one of the best running backs in the NFL. But, it's his versatility that makes him so good, not just his running back ability.
LeSean McCoy is one of the best running backs in the NFL. But, it’s his versatility that makes him so good, not just his running back ability.

Thirteen teams accounted for at least five 300-yard passing games last year with the Broncos and Saints leading the way with 12 and 11.

The 300-yard passing game used to be the litmus test for solid quarterback play. But with the increased number of passing attempts and the stricter rules for defensive players, it’s tougher for a receiver to be guarded man-to-man.

With the passing game the way it is now, will we ever see the running back be revived? The running back used to be not only the focal point of an offense but of a team. He was the guy that was in charge of softening up the defense and also took the reins when it was time to salt the game away.

This has been a pretty pathetic offseason if you’re a running back. Fifteen backs have signed for an average contract of two years, $4.17 million. Contrast that with kickers and four of those signed for an average of three years, $6.4 million.

I never thought I’d see the day when kickers would be netting more than running backs. But kickers can be an equalizer with a strong foot for field goals and kickoffs.

Another factor that has really hurt the running back position is the recent trend of platooning the position. It really never allows a running back to get into a rhythm and see the changes and shifts the defense is making during the course of a game. There’s something to be said about bringing a running back in that is a change-of-pace. For example, DuJuan Harris would be the perfect home run threat to the battering ram that is Eddie Lacy.

The West Coast offense has also played a part in the running back’s slow demise. Bill Walsh was a genius for coming up with a system that uses precision short passes to take the place of plodding runs. And that has also put more pressure on players and coaches to draft the right quarterback.

The Baltimore Ravens proved that you can win a Super Bowl with a game manager thanks to a nasty defense, but Trent Dilfer only started eight regular season games that year beginning with Oct. 29. Getting another game managing quarterback to hoist a Super Bowl trophy isn’t just difficult, I doubt it will happen again.

The top two running backs in the league are LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson. And both guys aren’t used just for traps, counters and sweeps. They both can catch the ball out of the backfield and have even lined up as a receiver. They are excellent as a vintage-style running back but are versatile enough to do other things.

Which brings me to the future. Last year, five running backs were taken in the second round and this year looks to be the same with Carlos Hyde projected as a late second rounder. Teams don’t want to put a lot of money and faith in a player that has at least 10 years of tough mileage by the time they get to the NFL. Positions like quarterback or wide receiver will not only have a longer career but will also be utilized more. If you’re an athletic kid, you want to play quarterback because you’re more than likely going to rack up a decent amount of rushing yardage as well.

The running back position will never be completely dead. There will always be a need to keep defensive lines honest as a way to open up the pass.

However, with the passing game that is going on, now might be the best time for running backs to show signs of life. Teams have been gearing up to stop the pass for years by drafting or signing big defensive backs and defensive ends that are sack machines. Will this be the year the running back position breaks through and proves its worth?




Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn


27 thoughts on “Cory’s Corner: Running back position is on life support

  1. How many really good defensive players has Ted Thompson drafted in his decade as Packers GM? I would contend two. Two in 10 years. Two our of 100 draft picks executed.

    By Position:

    (1) CB – none.
    (2) S – Nick Collins
    (3) ILB – none (Bishop was close)
    (4) OLB – CMIII
    (5) DL – none (Aaron Kampman was drafted by Sherman)

    That is amazing. Two good players in 10 years of drafting and one suffered a career ending injury and the other averages about 8 games per season. Is there any wonder why our defense is so horrible? It is because of horrible drafting by Packers GM, Ted Thompson. As shocking as this is, it is even more shocking that so many Packer fans and the media give TT so much credit for being an astute drafter. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I guess having the best QB on the planet hides a lot of misdeeds to those who engage in superficial analysis of W-L records. My prediction: Packer fans and the media will turn harshly on TT in the next two years if his defense remains pathetic and his W-L record goes south as the teams in the North division pas the the Packers by, even with AROD at QB. It may not happen fully this year with new coaches in DET and MN but you can see it coming if TT can’t figure out a way to play solid defense. Of course, that solution would begin with getting Hawk off the field but I don’t see that coming anytime soon. Instead, fans and the media are saying if only somebody good played next to Hawk he wouldn’t look so bad. And they say the same thing about Morgan Burnett. No my friends, when a player is good it shows, regardless of who he plays next to. In fact the true test is whether you can make those around you look and play better. Obviously Hawk has failed that test as well. I don’t care if Hawk was the 5th overall pick or a 5th round pick, he is the reason we have no defense in the middle of the defense.

    1. I do hope Archie, that you are practicing “catch and release” while you troll…

    2. Archie, I agree, It is amazing what TT gets by with. Makes no difference what he does and the majority of the people still drink the TT malt liquor. A good example would be Marshall Newhouse, who in their sound mind would allow him to put a jockstrap on? And the malt liquor drinkers think its ok. It is definately the 2 decades of great quarterbacking that hides alot of sins. As far as TT, he has that obammy swagger, people will follow him right off a cliff and not really understand why. And the minority who call him out for what he really is are condemned to hell…

      1. 55 Regular Season wins since 2009, tied for most in the NFC, 3 straight NFC North titles, and one Lombardi Trophy. What is it you don’t understand Big T and Archie. Seems even with TT Malt Liquor you 2 are the only 2 that are drunk!

        1. What don’t they understand? Well, for one thing, Archie doesn’t understand simple mathematics. I find it humorous when people repeatedly say that Matthews “averages about eight games per season.” If people were intelligent and informed they would realize that 69 games in 5 seasons averages out to 13.8 games per season. You would also think that an intelligent person would realize that it’s impossible to average eight games per season when a player has never failed to play less that 11 games in a season.

          But I guess maybe intelligence is too much to expect sometimes.

    3. To be fair, you should include undrafted free agents, including Tramon Williams and Sam Shields. Those are “very good” players. I’d also include Jolly and (hopefully) Hayward and Hyde on the list.

    4. CB- Hayward, Hyde (Williams and Shields UDFA)
      S- Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett (not elite, but good)
      ILB- Hawk ( good solid player, not elite but good)
      OLB- CM3, Mike Neal, a make or break year for Perry ( lots of potential)
      DL- B.J Raji (bad season last year playing out of position, will thrive again at NT)and I’m not sure how you could forget Mike Daniels and Johnny Jolly probably because you have a selective troll brain.

  2. Is anyone paying attention? Archie and Big T, I don’t mind that you criticize TT, you are entitled to your respective opinions, but just as an FYI, Cory’s article was about the state of the running back position and the implications for the future of that position. It had nothing to do with TT or his draft picks. I guess that you had an unusually difficult trip back to your planet last night. As for Cory’s article, I prefer having a run game that we can be confident will pick up short yardage first downs and use up the clock when we have a lead. Fortunately, the Packers have that again with Lacy, Starks, and hopefully a healthy Harris. I want to be confident that our OL can control the line of scrimmage and run against anybody. We’re getting there but we need a quality NFL center. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61

    1. Absolutely,don’t forget Franklin.The main reason we should pick up one of the two top centers, who could backup at guard if they lost the job to Tretter.

      1. Thanks Pete, I love Franklin and have a feeling he’ll be huge in McCarthys offense after a full offseason to devise plays to take advantage of his skill set.

        1. Have to disagree that Franklin will have a huge anything in the Packers offense. McCarthy wants 3 down RB’s so he can play no huddle and the RB doesn’t have to substituted. That mean Lacy the majority of the time and Starks most of the rest. I don’t see how Franklin can be huge in the offense w/ maybe 5-8 plays a game, if he even gets that many. I’m not sure he can beat out Harris for the #3 RB job, which isn’t the 3rd down RB job, by the way.

          Franklin can best make an impact for the Packers be becoming a good reliable PR/KR. Even IF, and that’s a fairly big IF, Franklin beats out Harris he’ll be lucky to see 5 downs/game on offense.

          He simply can’t be a huge player on offense w/ that limited a role. I like his talent but he’s going to struggle just to beat out Harris, much less take snaps from Lacy and Starks.

          His best chance to make any impact is by being a viable PR/KR. Otherwise I don’t see any opportunities for him.

      2. Franklin was a good college player.
        Not NFL material.
        I said it when it happened – I’ll say it again now… that was a waste of a pick. He is currently the 6th best rb on the roster…


        1. Hmmmmm. Well he ran for 4369 yards in 52 games on 774 carries averaging 5.6 YPC. His Senior season alone he ran for 1700 yards and 13 TD’s and caught 32 passes for another 319 yards and 2 scores. That’s over 2000 yards of offense so I’m not sure where you get the idea he’s not a good back. Throw in EVERY “Draft Expert” thought Franklin was a steal in the 4th round, I’ll believe them over you.

          1. Nick – I agree with you and Pete 100%. I didn’t mean to leave Franklin out but I’m not sure how much playing time he will see if Harris returns fully recovered. If Harris is not 100% then I hope Franklin sees plenty of playing time. As for Cow42 I am sure that you realize that he doesn’t use facts or logic to support his comments, as you have done very well in your reply to him. LOL. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61

            1. Even IF Franklin beats out Harris, he MIGHT see 5-8 snaps/game. He can’t make an impact in such a limited role. If Franklin wants to make an impact on the team next year, he should be working on his PR/KR skills. McCarthy wants to play no huddle on offense, which is why he wants a RB that can play all 3 downs. Those snaps are Lacy and Starks, any other RB will see maybe 5-8 snaps a game at the most.

            2. Thanks Since61, I loved your above post. Thanks for getting everyone back on the subject written about, Running Backs! I just have a feeling about Franklin this year and Stroh is right, he may not get more than 5 to 8 snaps a game. But McCarthy mentioned last year he had begun to design plays to get Franklin more involved in the offense, 5 to 8 snaps a game might be enough with this guy to make an impact.

              I hope the best for DuJuan Harris but we don’t have any idea how he’ll be after the knee injury, and with Starks injury history, (Knocking on wood) Franklin could see more snaps because of that. He’s just got to hang onto the ball. It was a problem until his Senior season at UCLA, and it was a problem last year again.

              1. Case in point Cinci game. I would love to see him be the returner bc it’s a great need, however it doesn’t bode well after his short stint there last season.

              2. Pete I agree… The best thing Franklin can do to impact the Packers is learn to be a returner. If he could be a good, reliable PR/KR option he would put himself into position to possibly earn more snaps on offense too.

                Clean up his fumble issues and become a returner would solidify his position w/ the Packers. If he is behind Lacy, Starks and Harris he’ll be a forgotten man on the roster otherwise.

                Nick… Harris did’t have an ACL. Patellar, which is similar but not as severe. Also, before last year McCarthy reworked the Packers run game to fit Harris’ ability, before we drafted Lacy. Harris is a similar, smaller version of Lacy.

            1. He played pretty well in the Cincinnati game, we’ll enough to disprove your assessment, tough he is buried deep right now. I believe Harris has earned McCarthy’s trust. He stood right next to McCarthy with a clip board at every game, I am sure coach noticed.

              Stroh is right, PR and KR. Franklin should embrace those opportunities, he seems very well made for them.

  3. Dome teams and warm weather teams as well may be able to roll back on the running game. I, for one am thrilled with what the Pack has finally put together with Lacy, Starks, Franklin and Harris. Brings the safety up and obviously makes AR and company way more dangerous.Lacy also proved the cold is not a deterrent. Bodes well if he stays healthy. And for the record, Archie’s points are not troll material. He’s entitled to his opinion and the facts are the facts! It’s pretty much the AR show and reinforcements badly needed.

    1. I’ll pay special attention to the Packers running game the last 8 games of the year starting November 9th. The Packers play 7 of 8 in what could be “Cold Weather Games”, 5 at home, one at each Minnesota and Buffalo, and the other in Tampa Bay.

      Lacy and Starks already proved last year to be one of the most lethal running combinations in the NFL. Throw in Harris and Franklin who will certainly be better, the Packers are going to be plain scary at the RB position.

  4. The passing game wins games in the regular season, but great defense and the running game wins games in the playoffs. Just ask the 2010 Packers, 2011 Giants, and 2012 Ravens.

  5. I like DuJuan Harris, but I think people need to cool the jets a little bit. Dude’s got 43 carries in his career. Yes, he shows promise, but it’s not like we’ve got a lot of tape to watch.

    And again, I like DuJuan Harris, but I don’t really see him as a “change of pace back.” Being short doesn’t make you a change of pace back. He’s a power runner with good but not great speed, a one cut guy without much shake and bake, runs through arm tackles, gets yards after contact… in other words, he’s a lot like Lacey and not really a change of pace. His longest career run is 21 yards.

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