Every week in the preseason new players capture the imagination of fans as we see a player flash either in practice or a game. It's also easy to forget about players whose names don't appear in the daily reports that come up. After all, the NFL is a what have you done for me lately league....and if a guy just isn't performing then it's only natural that a team or fanbase may have trouble remembering.
All this leads to an interesting discussion that happened here this past week highlighting a guy who really stepped up in the past game....Brandon Saine. He's a player who was able to use the most of his time and got some good tape out of his performance. Good for him and hopefully he either has just enough tape to get on our PS or so much tape that he makes his way on to the roster like a certain someone predicted awhile ago....
The interesting thing about this discussion though was the viewpoint many had of one Ryan Grant. It's an old song and dance that there are Ryan Grant supporters, those who accept his presence and believe him to be a mild asset (which I adhere to), and those that are Grant detractors. However what was surprising to me in this conversation was the people who believed that Grant is "expendable" or needed to be traded.
I can understand where people might get this opinion however to follow through on this is just plain wrong. Ryan Grant for all his flaws does have a spot on this roster....in fact it will probably be a starting job. After the jump we'll walk through the reason the reason why Ryan Grant will be a Packer in 2011, but also why the Packers need him through this coming year.
Reason 1: The Packers missed Ryan Grant in 2010.
Let's start with some bottom line truths about Ryan Grant. He's not Adrian Peterson. He's not Chris Johnson. He's not Emmitt Smith or Barry Sanders either. In fact, he may not really be special.....but that doesn't mean that he's not good or talented either.
Last year the Packers were a team that lived life on the edge. There were lots of close games and more biter loses that we cared to admit. Through this up and down season the defense played pretty well and very consistently. The offense is a different story though. The offense struggled at many times through the season and never really got its sea legs until the last couple games of the year. Even once the offense got going the team still struggled to move the ball in a few key games (most notably both Bear games). And what was the main piece that was missing for the offense? The running game.
After Grant went down in the first game of the season the running game never really got going. In fact it was rare the the Packers were able to move the ball effectively on the ground through out most of 2010. Now a part of this is due to TT's Jon Ryan move of last year (keeping 2 HB's and 3 FB's...I mean seriously wtf?). This decision put Brandon Jackson into the spot light and taught us a few lessons. The first is that Brandon Jackson, while a talented football player, is not a running back an offense can rely upon to carry the ball. Jackson's game is blocking, receiving and making something happen in space. That's great, but not what we needed then.
The other lesson this move taught us Packer fans paying attention was that Ryan Grant did add something to out offense. Often a vocal member of Packer faithful would want to write off Grant as average and focus on his flaws. However the Packers were not able to just plug in any running back into the offense and get the same production that Grant has been able to give in the past. This general lack of a running threat caused the Packers to lose consistency and become one dimensional.
Thus the easiest way to improve from last year is to make sure that we have the running game to keep the defense honest. It will help the offense be more productive and help keep our defense on the sidelines. Now those who want to just see Grant hit the bricks can point to Jamie Starks. Fine but that brings us to our next point................
Reason 2. The Packers shouldn't put all their eggs in James Starks' basket yet.
To those who think that I'm under rating Starks I'll give a few things right away...Starks is a more explosive running back than Grant. He's probably more talented than Grant. He's definitely fresher than Grant. He's even come up big in some big games for us. But here's my question.......
Can he stay healthy for 16 games?
See the last time I checked the last full season that Starks was able to put in was two years ago. He's already missed two practices this week with another injury from his handful of carries against the Browns. He's busted up a shoulder, a hamstring, and now an ankle. He's also missed more games than he's played as a pro. He should definitely part of the long term plan for the Packers, but I don't know if he has the track record to be the only plan for the Packers. After all, if you re-read point one the Pack do need to have a consistent running threat through out the year. Having two running backs who are able to do that should be able to lessen the wear and tear on each of their bodies and minimize the risk that we will be having to totally rely on the passing game again this year.
Now you'll notice that my points can be construed that Starks may take the starting role from Grant at some point this season. If so then Grant would become a might expensive back up....which is the strongest point for those banging on the table for Grant getting gone. But to this I say....
Reason 3. There is more value for Ryan Grant on the roster this year than off.
Value. Anytime you start talking trades and cuts it all comes down to value, value, value. What is the player able to give versus what are you able to get by moving him. Now there are lots of numbers that can be used to help make a decision such as money being paid and stats of previous years. But this isn't only about numbers and a larger picture must be seen. What is the role that this player will have on the team? If he is not on the team who will fill that role? Will this that player be able to fill the role as well or better then the player you want off the roster? Etc., etc.
Ryan Grant's role is clear. He is a running threat and a player who is able to help balance out our offense. He is durable, healthy, and still has something left in the tank. He is a bit expensive if we are thinking of him as a back up, but currently the Packers are $11 million or so under the cap so that's not a huge deal really. The bigger deal is making sure the offense runs and runs well. We want to win a Super Bowl THIS year not build for the future. Also, other than Starks there is not a player who can adequately fill that role. Add in the fact that Starks has some injury questions and Grants' value becomes painfully obvious.
Really the deal with Grant, especially for trading, is kinda like that of Matt Flynn. It's a very trendy thought to come out and spout that Matt Flynn needs to be traded. After all the Packers should get something for him right?! That's all well find and good, but really it's better to have the extra security of a great backup who may be able to win a couple games should the worst happen rather than hurry and trade and only end up with a 4th or 5th round pick. The same is true for Grant. Grant's contract and history is such that the Packers really aren't going to get any jaw dropping trade offers for him if Grant went to the trading block. He's an older running back with not much more of a future and getting paid pretty decent money. If the Packers were to get anything from it would be a guy who would probably get cut or a 7th round pick. Now picks are nice, but having extra security at running back is going to be more valuable for this team going into this year.
So no, Ryan Grant is not expendable. He's valuable. He's a piece our offense needs and one we sorely missed last year. Now he may not hold on to the starting job throughout this year and he probably won't be back next year, but for right now he's the best back practicing (since as of this writing Starks is still injured and behind Grant on the depth chart anyways), and a Packer the team will be counting on in our bid to repeat.