The Green Bay Packers are not in the market for a star running back. They have shown that they prefer to use the much cheaper backfield-by-committee approach. An unknown James Starks propelled them through the playoffs in 2010. This year, it was practice squad player DuJuan Harris who became their primary back.
The Packers are not willing to give a lot of money to a running back. They certainly have their reasons – running backs take a huge physical beating throughout their careers, and generally don’t see much success after age 30. Furthermore, running backs often demand very high priced contracts with lots of guaranteed money because – well, because they take a huge physical beating throughout their careers and generally don’t see much success after age 30.
As long as the Packers continue to find some success in their developed players like Starks and Harris, they have very little incentive to reach into their wallets for a running back. The Packers are a pass-first team and will be as long as Aaron Rodgers suits up for them. The Packers, particularly head coach Mike McCarthy, lean too heavily on Rodgers’ arm for all of Green Bay’s success. Teams are starting to learn better how to cover a pass-happy attack like Green Bay’s, and the 2011 season – where it didn’t matter if the Packers never ran the ball because they were usually up three touchdowns by halftime – is not going to happen again.
One of the biggest criticisms of McCarthy is how little time and attention he gives to the running game. He has certainly made an effort this year to balance the playcalling more, but the absence of a running game has long been a glaring weakness for Green Bay. Until they find a consistent, week-in, week-out run game, they’re going to look a lot like they did this season – good, but not good enough.
What the Packers should do about the run game is very distinct from what they will do. The most likely is that they will sign one of the veterans they had this year – Cedric Benson or Ryan Grant – to a short-term contract, and continue to develop Alex Green and Harris. Though they like Starks, his injury history makes him the most expendable of their backs. Packers fans who are hoping for a big offseason change to the Green Bay backfield should get used to disappointment.