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Packers 2017 Running Game, Part 3: Breaking plays through individual effort

Scheme can only take you so far; sometimes, talent takes over.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

In this three-part series, APC’s Bob Fitch looks back at the film to understand how the Green Bay Packers utilized the running game in 2017 with three different running backs and Aaron Rodgers unavailable. The third and final installment looks at examples of exceptional individual effort.

Individual Effort

Watching a quarterback drop a dime over a cornerback and beneath a safety over a receiver’s shoulder is a thing of beauty. Sometimes though, I find more joy in a running back making a defense look foolish. Good runs seem to take more talent than a nice pass and catch; the defense (usually) knows who’s got the ball, and his starting point is in the backfield, giving them more time to react to the play. It’s pretty easy to figure out why it’s now a passing league.

I mean...doesn’t this get your blood going?

Sure, it was only 5 yards, but it should have been a 4 yard loss. It was a broken tackle, a completely demolished defender, and dragging a human adult who gets paid a lot of money to stop you from moving 2 yards to get a first down while your team is down in the fourth quarter at home against your longest tenured rival. That was a huge run. I mean....LOOK AT POOR KYLE FULLER.

These are the types of runs that you’ll see from Jamaal Williams. Forward lean, two hands on the ball, finishing runs strong. His vision wasn’t always the best; being concerned with getting positive yardage on every cary came at the expense of running lanes outside of the designated playcall, but not many rookie running backs have excellent vision in their first year. Being able to get a few extra yards on every run adds up; football is a game of inches, after all.

It’s tough. It’s nasty. It’s not always efficient, and the highlight reel isn’t full of long runs, but when it hits right it’s invigorating. Williams’ running style forms a pretty good duo with fellow rookie Aaron Jones, who had a few fine runs himself:

He’s got an ability to create a Picasso using a pickle. The ability to juke a defender out of his cleats is a joy to watch no matter what team the player is on or who it happens against, and must be painfully embarrassing as a defender. Look at Bryan Cox Jr., #91, as he tries to get his hands on Jones.

Jones is looking like a 205-pound ball of butter with a jet-pack out there!

Nothing encapsulated the contrasting styles of Jones and Williams more than the overtime of week 13 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If you managed to scourge the second half of the season from your mind, as I know I did, let me refresh your memory.

With 7:21 remaining in overtime, McCarthy calls a power run with Jamaal Williams, Jahri Evans leading the way. Two defenders hit Williams after he picked up 3 yards. I’ll ask the audience; do you think he went down easily?

Even on his 21st carry of the day, Williams keeps his legs churning through attempted tackles and gets 9 yards, putting the ball on the edge of field goal range. Those kind of runs are demoralizing to a defense.

But Williams wasn’t finished. On the very next play, a clearly winded Williams gets a pass thrown his way. The fake handoff to Cobb, who was in motion to the left, freezes Kwon Alexander a bit to create space for Williams. Alexander is a rangy linebacker, and even though Williams was sucking pond water, he had enough in the tank to have decent separation.

This stiffarm is great. I’ve written about my love of the stiffarm before, and it still holds true. It’s a mean, personal move, and Williams puts it to good use here. The fact that he managed to sneak along the sidelines for a few extra yards is just icing on the cake.

You know you’re feeling it when you toss in a shimmy after the play in overtime.

Aaron Jones subbed in on the very next play, and I’m going to let the play speak for itself (volume recommended).

Yin and yang, peanut butter and jelly, the Bears and losing; Williams and Jones proved themselves to be quite the pairing this year. Bring on 2018.

If there are other plays, players or schemes you would like to see covered by Bob in his film breakdowns, leave a comment below!