The Green Bay Packers suffered a major blow in their Week 1 win over the Eagles in Philadelphia. The team has announced that starting running back Ryan Grant will miss the remainder of the season after injuring his right ankle.
Grant’s loss is a huge blow to a Packers team with Super Bowl aspirations in 2010. He is one of the few workhorse running backs in the league and has carried the bulk of the load at the position since taking over as the team’s starter at the midpoint of the 2007 season.
A powerful runner with enough speed to break long runs, Grant has been a perfect fit in Green Bay. Since taking over as the lead back, he has rushed for 3,430 yards and 23 touchdowns in 42 games.
With Grant out, the Packers will turn to Brandon Jackson. Taken in the second round of the 2006 draft, Jackson has not lived up to expectations in Green Bay.
In his first three years with the Packers, Jackson has just 626 rushing yards. He’s mainly fulfilled the pass catching role out of the backfield for most of his career but has failed to excel in that capacity, retaining his roster spot mostly because of his pass blocking ability, which allows the team to put either four wide receivers or three wide receivers and a tight end in patterns on passing downs.
The team has signed Dimitri Nance, an undrafted rookie free agent, from the Falcons practice squad. James Starks, picked in the sixth round of this year’s draft, is on the physically unable to perform list and will mist at least the first six weeks of the season.
After underperforming for his entire career, Jackson finally gets an opportunity to step into the lead back role in Green Bay. However, the best indicator of future performance is past performance so expectations for Jackson should be held in check.
The Packers coaches have chosen to use Jackson less as his career has gone on. His touches have decreased every year he has been in the league, from 91 to 75 to 58.
It’s safe to assume that trend would have continued in 2010 had Grant not went down.
On the plus side, with no proven player currently behind him on the depth chart, Jackson figures to receive the majority of touches out of the backfield. He should be considered a RB3 with upside in most leagues and a decent flex option in leagues that employ the position.
However, acquiring him is not without risk. Look for Green Bay to scour the free agent market for a veteran running back or perhaps acquire one via a trade. Ahman Green, who split time with Jackson as the team’s top backup for the last half of 2009, is an obvious candidate to be re-signed. Buffalo Bills running Marshawn Lynch, rumoured to be available in a trade ever since the team selected C.J. Spiller in the first round of this year’s draft, is a similar player to Grant and would make sense in Green Bay.
If a veteran isn’t added to the mix, look for either Nance or Starks to get an opportunity at some point in 2010 with Starks likely the better option. The rookie from the University of Buffalo is a skilled but injury-prone player who has the talent to play in the league provided he can stay healthy.