The Green Bay Packers have struggled to run the football all season long. Presently, the Pack ranks 30th in the NFL with an average of just 74.5-yards rushing per game. They are averaging just 3.3-yards per rush and have been stopped for no gain or negative yardage 19 times. That does not include kneel downs at the end of the half or the game. The Packers problems can be attributed to poor blocking and injuries along the offensive line and to running backs. But here are five things the Packers can do to improve their running game:
First Thing the Packers Can Do to Improve Their Running Game: Get Aaron Jones More Touches
Aaron Jones is by far the Packers best running back. He is dynamic and dangerous. Jones’ speed and cutting ability make him a threat to break a long run any time he touches the ball.
Jones has gained more than 1,000 yards in a season in three of the last four years. He is also a good receiver out of the backfield and was second on the team in pass receptions with 59 a year ago.
The former UTEP star returned to the lineup in Week 4 against the Lions after injuring his hamstring in the season opener against the Bears. The coaching staff had Jones on a play count, and he received only six touches against Detroit.
The Packers should get Jones the ball more once he’s ready. A.J. Dillon has struggled this season. The Green Bay ground game should primarily go through Jones. When he’s healthy, he should get most of the carries.
Second Thing the Packers Can Do to Improve Their Running Game: Don’t Get Away from Running the Ball
Packers head coach Matt LaFleur calls the plays for the offense and scripts the first 15 plays of each game in advance. However, LaFleur often gets away from calling enough running plays. How often have we heard the coach say he needs to run the ball more and get the ball to Jones more often? Far too frequently.
Even if the running game isn’t clicking on all cylinders, running the ball keeps the defense honest, prevents third and long situations, and gives the defense a chance to catch its breath.
The Packers need to commit to running the football even if that includes more jet sweeps, end arounds and other gadget plays a few times per game.
Third Thing the Packers Can Do: Get the Offensive Line Healthy
The running game’s struggles have been in part due to poor run blocking by the offensive line. David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins are two of the team’s better run blockers. Bakhtiari has been out since Week 1 and Jenkins since the second quarter of Game 2. Bakhtiari is likely done for the season.
Jenkins returned to practice on Tuesday and if he returns and plays left guard, it should give the run blocking a boost.
Zach Tom, another of the team’s better run blockers, has also been playing hurt and the team needs to get him back to full strength. Jon Runyan, Jr. has also been playing through injuries which compromised his run blocking.
If the better run blockers on the offensive line get healthy, the run blocking should improve, and the runners will have more holes to run through.
Fourth Thing the Packers Can Do to Improve Their Running Game: Bench Royce Newman
Royce Newman has struggled mightily as a run blocker. While he is far from alone in this department, Newman has graded out as the team’s worst run blocker among players who have taken significant snaps according to Pro Football Focus. Newman has also been beaten frequently in pass protection.
If Jenkins returns to the lineup and Runyan is healthy, Newman won’t start. But if either of the two are unable to go, the Packers should turn to 2022 third-round pick Sean Rhyan at guard over Newman.
Another alternative is to move Tom to guard and have Yosh Nijman move to tackle until the starting guards are healthy.
Either way, Newman is too much of a liability to leave in the lineup.
Fifth Thing the Packers Can Do: Give Emanuel Wilson More Touches
With Dillon struggling to gain yards after contact and to pick the right running lane, the Packers should give more touches to rookie Emanuel Wilson.
Wilson led the team in rushing in the preseason. The former Fort Valley State star has carried the ball just five times in four regular season games. Getting him some more touches at the expense of Dillon could motivate Dillon and may give the offense a spark if Wilson can recreate some of the magic he showed in August.
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