Shotgun marriage
Packers press Green using pass formation Friday, November 2, 2001
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Packers press Green using pass formation

By MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM
of the Journal Sentinel staff

Green Bay - His speed has been widely noted, but Ahman Green might be the prototypical power back. He's strong and powerfully built in the lower body, wastes no time hitting the hole and even played college ball at the University of Nebraska, where tailbacks seem to grow like corn.

Lately, though, the Green Bay Packers have asked Green at times to become a different kind of running back.

The Packers, in an attempt to provide quarterback Brett Favre more time and a better view to throw the ball, have gone to the shotgun more over the last three games, forcing Green to run out of a formation designed for the pass. Though the Packers say they have designed their running plays to work out of the shotgun, Green hasn't been as good statistically running out of the formation.

In traditional running formations, Green's ability to quickly get to the point of attack is best exploited, and the extra punch provided by a lead blocker allows the Packers to attack opponents with a physical running game. That's what coach Mike Sherman has said he wants to establish since he arrived in Green Bay.

However, the Packers say they think Green's versatility allows him to be an effective runner from the shotgun when the Packers want to - or think they need - to use it. The main objective of the shotgun is to protect the quarterback, but the Packers have adjusted their offense to run the ball from the formation.

"We have been able adapt our normal running game to the (shotgun)," running backs coach Sylvester Croom said. "It gives the defense a different look. The main thing it does, and the most important thing it does, is it does not allow them to say when (the Packers) get in the shotgun, that it is 100% pass."

The Packers want to remain unpredictable by always having the threat of a run out of the shotgun, but eight of Green's 14 shotgun carries have been on first and 10. The Packers also haven't been able to run the ball as effectively out of the shotgun, even when you consider that eight of Green's 14 carries from the formation came against Baltimore's stout run defense.

Green has gained 61 yards from the shotgun, an average of 4.4 yards per carry, with a long run of 19 yards and no touchdowns. He has lost yardage twice, for minus-4 yards, and lost one fumble.

When Green has not been in the shotgun, he has 93 carries for 451 yards, an average of 4.8 yards per carry, and a long run of 83 yards for a touchdown. He has lost yardage 11 times for minus-27 yards and lost one fumble.

Green also has run the ball better when the Packers use a tighter formation, with or without the shotgun. When the Packers line up with two wide receivers and either a fullback and a tight end or two tight ends, Green has 343 yards rushing in 58 carries for a hefty average of 5.9 yards per attempt.

The shotgun has helped the passing game at times and running out of it may keep defenses honest, but the numbers seem to suggest that the Packers are a better running team when they simply line up and run straight at opponents who might be expecting it.

Green, though, said he didn't think the shotgun had hurt Green Bay's ability to run the ball, nor had it hindered his power game. He said getting the ball sooner from Favre allowed him to better read the linemen's blocks and see the play develop.

"I like it," Green said. "It is something I have had to get used to. You can see the offensive line in a different view. The quarterback is right there with you, so you are getting the handoff right there. He is not brining it to you, and I would say that probably would be easier."

Croom said Green could be as effective running from the shotgun as from traditional running alignments because of his rare combination of talents. For many teams, running out of the shotgun is difficult because they bring in a third-down back, usually a smaller and quicker player who is too small to pound between the tackles.

But Green is quick enough to make the sudden bursts into running lanes that are necessary from the shotgun and big enough to get through traffic, Croom said.

"From split backs to (shotgun) is different, but Ahman, because of his ability, we are able to do it," he said. "He is a combination halfback-tailback. He is not only a good power back from the top of the 'I,' he is also shifty enough and has the vision and foot quickness to make cuts from the (shotgun).

"It is rare to find guys that can do both but in his case we are doing that."

Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Nov. 2, 2001.

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