Green Bay Packers' signing of RB Ahman Green provides insurance
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Green Bay Press Gazette
When the Green Bay Packers signed Ahman Green on Wednesday, it didnít take long for the sarcastic jokes to follow.
Youíve probably already heard most of them: Did Dorsey Levens turn the Packers down because his No. 25 was already taken? Why wasnít Edgar Bennett considered as a player-coach? Hasnít Eddie Lee Ivery had enough time to rehabilitate his injured knee? Was Brent Fullwood too busy dancing to come in for a tryout?
Itís not surprising that the Packersí move to bring back a running back retread like the 32-year-old Green would generate skepticism, but a larger point is being missed.
Green, a four-time Pro Bowl player in Green Bay and the second-leading rusher in team history, wasnít signed to become the savior for the Packersí running game. Instead, he will provide veteran backup experience, something that has been sorely lacking not only at running back, but also at other key positions on this team.
Greenís signing, combined with last weekís addition of veteran tackle Mark Tauscher, give indications that General Manager Ted Thompson is finally addressing one of the weaknesses in his roster-building approach.
Since taking over in 2005, Thompson has constructed the team primarily through the draft, and with a few exceptions has pieced together a fairly solid starting lineup. But Thompson has failed to provide enough backup support.
The Packers have produced the youngest roster in the NFL for four consecutive seasons, which points to Thompsonís insistence on replenishing the bottom of the roster with untested talent. That, in turn, has come back to haunt the Packers when starters get injured.
When safety Atari Bigby went down in the first month of the season, the Packers didnít have an adequate backup plan, and the defense suffered. Thompson mistakenly cut veteran safety Anthony Smith coming out of training camp, which left his team vulnerable because Aaron Rouse and Derrick Martin werenít ready to start.
When Allen Barbre struggled mightily at right tackle early, the Packers werenít about to turn to unproven Breno Giacomini, which explains the signing of Tauscher.
With injury-prone backup halfbacks Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn putting the run game on shaky ground, Thompson decided to reach for a veteran like Green rather than promote Kregg Lumpkin from the practice squad.
Itís a sign that Thompson is finally getting it. Yes, itís necessary to build for the future with young talent, but there must be some balance. Thompson has leaned too heavily on keeping young players as backups, and some glaring potential problems still exist.
If Aaron Rodgers goes down, the Packers are in major trouble because backup Matt Flynn has five career NFL passes to his credit.
If Chad Clifton continues to miss playing time, the Packers will be forced to rely on rookie T.J. Lang to protect Rodgersí blind side.
If any of the top three cornerbacks gets hurt, the Packers might be forced to throw rookie Brandon Underwood into the fire and likely will get burned.
Thompson wisely has avoided signing big-money free agents, who normally donít bring an adequate return on their investment. But he needs to do a better job of filling some roster spots with some semblance of veteran presence.
The signing of Green is not a long-term solution for the running game, but it provides some much-needed insurance and is a step in the right direction.
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