GREEN BAY, WIS. (AP) - While Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ passing game have been tough to stop in the preseason, Green Bay’s running game hasn’t had much of a workout _ at least when the first-team offense has been on the field.
Going into Thursday night’s game against Indianapolis at Lambeau Field, the Packers would like to get Ryan Grant a few more carries to make sure he and the offensive line starters get a running start going into the regular season.
“I don’t think it would be bad for him to get some reps,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “Obviously, we have a game plan that we’ve practiced for Indy and we know what it is. We’ve got a number of runs that would be typical of what we would carry at this point in time. But we haven’t gotten to the stage where (we say), ‘Hey, let’s run Ryan 12 times or eight times.’”
Grant left the first preseason game against Cleveland after sustaining a concussion on the Packers’ third offensive play of the game. He returned for the second preseason game at Seattle but didn’t get much work.
Grant says he’s feeling fine, and isn’t concerned that he hasn’t touched the ball very much.
“I don’t think it’s the end of the world,” said Grant, who switched to a new style of helmet after the injury. “I’ve taken a lot of carries in this offense. Like I said, I just need to make sure that when I do get opportunities, that I make the most of them.”
The Packers have been particularly pass-happy in the preseason, at least when Rodgers has been in. He played four series _ including a one-play opening possession where Grant fumbled _ against Cleveland, throwing 13 times and handing off seven times.
The Packers ran Grant three times in a row to open the game, but then he suffered the concussion on his third carry. Rodgers then threw nine passes in a row.
The Packers’ run-pass ratio with Rodgers was similarly skewed at Seattle. In two series, Rodgers threw 11 times, handed off five times and scrambled once.
To some extent, that’s a function of the decision-making power Rodgers holds within Mike McCarthy’s offense; the Packers call a lot of run-pass option plays, where Rodgers can check into a pass if the defense appears to be geared up to stop the run, and vice versa.
Still, Rodgers wouldn’t mind getting the running game more work.
“As much as we’ve gotten in a rhythm throwing the football, I think there comes a time where you’re going to get in a rhythm with the play calling with your running,” Rodgers said. “And often that’s dictated by the kind of shell they play on defense. If they’re giving us a lot of eight-man box, we’re going to throw the ball. A team that wants to sit back and play seven-man box, that’s where we’re going to run the ball a little bit more. Depending on how Indianapolis plays, you might see a maybe more balanced attack this week.”
As the Packers’ play caller, McCarthy hasn’t shown that evenly balancing the run and the pass is an important goal _ and why should it be? The NFL is a pass-first league, and the Packers have one of the best passing offenses in the game.
Other teams are even more prone to passing plays. According to STATS LLC, the Packers passed 58 percent of the time last season. That was only the 12th-highest percentage in the league.
The team that beat the Packers in the playoffs, Arizona, threw a league-high 62.9 percent of the time last season and Thursday’s opponent, Indianapolis, was second-highest at 62.7 percent.
But even with injuries at running back, the Packers’ ground game could use some attention.
“I think it’s helpful for the backs in the stage of their career that we have here, for them to get some reps, get some contact, get knocked down,” Philbin said. “Is the ball security where it needs to be, are they handling the ball in traffic the way it needs to be handled and that type of thing? I don’t think it’s bad if (Grant) gets some work, but again, I don’t think we’ve really nailed it down yet.”
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