Football in June is so often a time for bold proclamations everywhere. Coaches signal change, players set expectations. So there were some eye rolls elsewhere when — with a kick of defiance — coach Mike McCarthy vowed with "big letters" that the Green Bay Packer running game would improve. "These workouts are great — they're a teaching, educational part of developing your football team," said McCarthy, on the run game. "We have to get in pads to find out what's real and what's perception. "We'll be better, I promise you that. Big letters." For three years, the Packer ground game has effectively scared no one. The numbers suggest ambivalence. Green Bay's rushing offense has ranked 20th, 27th and 24th. Through that stretch, running backs have averaged only four touchdowns per season. And there's that whole streak of 43 straight regular-season games without a 100-yard rusher. McCarthy is right. For now, it's all perception at running back. No one knows if this new group will give defensive coordinators pause. But the one loud-and-clear take-away from organized team activities and minicamp? There will be a commitment. Ted Thompson's actions and McCarthy's Pittsburgh bluntness suggest that much. This off-season, Green Bay needed this long look in the mirror. The Packers have arguably the best quarterback in the game and a stable of thoroughbreds at receiver. Rodgers' numbers the last two years? Staggering. He has 8,938 passing yards, 89 total touchdowns and 14 interceptions. But January demands more. In 2010, an unexpected surge from James Starks helped spark a Super Bowl run. In 2011 and 2012, Rodgers couldn't pass his way into the NFC Championship Game. Yes, last season took a nosedive when Colin Kaepernick skated 56 yards to the end zone in the third quarter. But the season dissolved on offense, too. On the next possession, Green Bay threw the ball on six straight plays and punted. When San Francisco went ahead by two scores, the Packers threw the ball eight straight times before punting. Game over, season over. This wasn't a pedal to the metal attack, this was panic. The Packers couldn't take their "brand," as McCarthy said beforehand, to San Francisco and win. In an interview recently, Rodgers lamented the empty third quarter. "When you're playing a team like that, you have to control the football and score points," Rodgers said. "Possessions are even more important in the playoffs. And in the third quarter, we had three possessions and three good opportunities to keep drives going and score and we didn't." True, McCarthy did show a refreshed commitment during parts of last season. After his quarterback was sacked four times more (8) than Cedric Benson had carries (two) in a first half loss to Seattle, after Green Bay squandered a 21-3 lead at Indianapolis, the Packers tried to run more.
Packers' expectations high for running game
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Jun 20