GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers is not yet convinced that the Green Bay Packers ground game is about to take flight.
But the Packers quarterback likes the potential he sees entering Sunday’s game at Chicago.
“I think it’s kind of wait and see,” Rodgers said during his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com Tuesday, two days after the Packers’ triumvirate of Alex Green, Ryan Grant and DuJuan Harris ran for a combined 113 yards, including 59 on an all-runs touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. The previous week, Green and James Starks had combined for 124 yards against Minnesota. “How much impact could the last two weeks have on a Chicago team that likes to play a lot of two-high, split safety defenses?
“Chicago played a lot of one-high against Minnesota last week, but (NFL leading rusher Adrian) Peterson obviously has been having a big-time season. He is not out of the realm of possibility of getting 2,000 yards which has only happened I believe five or six times now.”
(In typical Rodgers fashion, Rodgers then rattled off the six NFL running backs to eclipse the 2,000-yard barrier in a season: Eric Dickerson, O.J. Simpson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis and Chris Johnson.)
“It’s three different types of backs,” Rodgers continued. “It’s great having Ryan Grant back, I’m going to start with him. His presence in the locker room; he’s a great teammate. He’s always run well in the winter time here. I think that’s one thing you can really say about his career, he ran just as hard in Week 16 and 17 and he did in Week 1 and 2 when he was out full-time guy. Alex Green had some real nice runs, I thought he showed good patience and good burst, and he’s always been a guys who’s been able to make some yards after contact. And then the wildcard is really Harris.
Rodgers had been impressed with Harris since shortly after he signed with the practice squad in October, but he said he wasn’t the only one.
“I think everybody was impressed with him on the practice squad,” Rodgers said. “That’s the best thing I can say about DeJuan. Especially when I was a young player and ran the scout team, it’s fun when you see a guy who comes in and there’s really no expectations on him and he’s on the practice team running the other guys’ (plays) and he just works his butt off. And you see the talent and he gets raised up to the active roster and gets the chance to play and plays well. That to me is what the NFL is all about, is making the most of your opportunities when they come, and some guys get more than others.
“DeJuan is a guy who would not be someone who is going to get a lot of opportunities. This was an opportunity for him and he made the most of it, so I have to give him a lot of credit for being ready to play. But the fact is he’s very talented. He’s a very talented guy, he has very good agility, jump-cut ability, he’s fast, he’s got a very powerful lower body. He ran over the safety on the first play of the game which I don’t think anybody expected. And then had a nice run on the touchdown, (which) was pretty well blocked.”
Rodgers did point out that Harris needs to get a better grasp of the playbook and improve as a pass protector so defenses don’t know automatically that a run is coming when he’s in the game. Harris played seven snaps against the Lions, and carried on all seven, for 31 yards.
“That’s kind of what I told DeJuan after the game: ‘You’ve got to start learning some of these protections so that every time you’re in the game the team doesn’t know it’s a run,’” Rodgers said. ‘That’s the potential expansion of his role, if he can do some more stuff in the passing game. I think it’s kind of a feel thing.”
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