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Can Alex Green be the Packers' No. 1 HB? His game against the Colts provides evidence that he has what it takes.
Over the next eight weeks, if not the next 12, we're going to become very well acquainted with Alex Green. Most Packers fans were very optimistic about the young running back's potential before he suffered a season-ending knee injury last season, and for good reason. He looked explosive for his size in his early appearances and had a very productive college career. Unfortunately, that injury slowed his progress, and he wasn't quite the best version of himself for preseason.
Green was forced into action on Sunday when Cedric Benson went down with an injury. He wasn't as consistent as Benson has been for Green Bay, but he showed a lot of promise, and not just on his fantastic 41-yard run in the 4th quarter. There were a couple of slip-ups from Green, but after watching all of his touches on the coaches' film, I'm confident that he can be a competent starting back at the very least.
Let's go through all of his touches, one by one.
7-0 Packers. 13;04 remaining, 2nd quarter. 2nd and 10 from the IND 15.
The Packers line up in a shotgun formation with four wide, three receivers stacked to the right, with Green right of Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers recognizes the nickel defense and the defensive linemen playing wide, turns to Green, and calls an audible. The tackles, expecting a pass, rush wide. On a draw play, T.J. Lang steps up and blocks a linebacker to create a huge hole. Green runs for 9 yards. Great blocking and great recognition by Rodgers, and Green hit the hole quickly.
14-0 Packers. 10:20 remaining, 2nd quarter. 1st and 10 from the GB 32.
Shotgun, four wide. Green right of Rodgers, three WRs stacked left. Finley goes in motion from slot to h-back left. Packers run a draw play that Josh Gordy reads from a mile away. He jumps it and James Jones can't stop him from getting into the backfield. He slows up Green enough to allow Dwight Freeney to make a play after 2-yard gain. It would have been 4-5 yards easily if Gordy didn't jump the play or if Jones made a block.
14-3 Packers. 5:53 remaining, 2nd quarter. 2nd and 4 from the IND 30.
Cobb lines up slot left, Tom Crabtree at TE to the right in a three-WR shotgun set.. Green is to the right of Rodgers. They run a draw play to Green, who makes a good read and hits the hole quickly. Moise Fokou makes a good tackle to prevent what could have been a very solid gain. Green showed some good burst on this play.
21-13 Packers, 7:37 remaining, 3nd quarter. 1st and 10 from the GB 17.
I-Formation, two receivers stacked to the right, TE left. D.J. Willams goes in motion from slot to h-back. Packers run a stretch to the left that goes nowhere. Tom Zbikowski had stepped up into the box and was unblocked. Green never really had a chance to go anywhere.
21-13 Packers, 6:50 remaining, 3rd quarter. 3rd and 1 from the GB 26.
The Packers appear to be in a clear running formation. I-form, one WR left, two TEs right. Williams goes in motion to h-back left. Rodgers runs a play action fake to John Kuhn, then turns around and throws a swing pass to Green. He goes for 8 yards to pick up the first down easily, and a horse collar tackle adds 15 yards.
21-13 Packers, 6:18 remaining, 3rd quarter. 1st and 10 from the GB 49.
Single back set, Rodgers under center. two wide, two TEs stacked left. Crabtree goes in motion to the right. The stretch to the left is blown up and Green picks up one yard. He made the right cut, but Kavell Conner made an excellent tackle.
21-13 Packers, 4:41 remaining, 3rd quarter. 2nd and 10 from the IND 38.
Another single back set with Rodgers under center. Two TEs, two WRs, slot right. It's another stretch, with Crabtree getting pushed back into the backfield. Green makes the wrong decision trying to get around the back of him instead of just cutting upfield. He tries to make the big play instead of taking 2-3 yards on 2nd down, and it's a very bad decision. Loss of 4 yards.
21-19 Packers, 0:15 remaining, 3rd quarter. 1st and 10 from the GB 25.
Shotgun, three WR, slot left, TE right, Green right. Green trips over himself on a draw play. Welp. That was ugly. Loss of 2.
22-21 Colts, 7:41 remaining, 4th quarter. 1st and 10 from the 50.
Packers line up in an I-formation with two TEs, one WR right. It's an off tackle rush to the right, and Green makes an excellent decision to cut inside of Bryan Bulaga instead of following his lead blocker. A good pickup of 4 yards.
22-21 Colts, 4:44 remaining, 4th quarter. 1st and 10 from the IND 49.
Green's last touch was his best touch. The play came out of a full house backfield, with two FBs and two WRs. Handoff up the middle, and Green makes cut to run behind the left FB and finds a massive hole. He makes two guys miss in the secondary and cuts back across the field to the left for an extra 25 yards, racking up a 41-yard gain. Ryan Taylor made a killer lead block on the SOLB to spring him, but the credit for this play goes to Green. His two moves at the second level and his speed when he cut back to the right were fantastic.
- Green's knee looks healed, because he has some burst and can make sharp cuts.
- His vision is, at the very worst, adequate for an NFL running back.
- He's obviously capable of ripping off a big play.
- Even though he had that one error where he tried to go around Crabtree, he generally runs straight ahead and hits the hole hard instead of dancing.
- For a man his size, Green seems to go down a bit easily. Then again, I can say the same thing about Cedric Benson.
- He had two very bad mistakes in his 10 touches. Obviously those are things he's going to work out as he plays more, and his contribution to the game was a positive one, but a rate of one terrible mistake every five plays isn't a good one.
To be determined
- Pass blocking. Green had to do a lot of it at Hawaii and was good at it, and was solid in protection the few times he had to do it last season, but we simply haven't seen enough of him in protection to know if he can be trusted. Also, with the way our offensive line is playing, he'll probably have a lot to do.
- Receiving. We know that Green can catch the ball, but he wasn't asked to make any catches in any traffic, or make a play in the open field after catching a checkdown. Rodgers hasn't had time to look for checkdowns. I have a hunch that this is where we'll see Green really shine if our offensive line starts playing competently.
Green is young, raw, and untested. He simply hasn't played enough snaps for us to know whether or not he's going to be an impact player, but what he did in Sunday's game was very positive, even taking his two big mistakes into consideration. This guy has the talent to be a feature back, and he might have the football intelligence to do it right now. We're probably going to see a bit of James Starks on Sunday night, but I expect to see more of Green, and I think he's going to be up to being HB1.
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