With so much young talent at tight end and wide receiver, it’s easy to project reserve fullback Quinn Johnson as a roster casualty when the Packers make their final cuts on Saturday afternoon. In fact, I did just that when I first started working on my 53-man roster over the weekend. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to the realization that there just might be a place for the former Louisiana State standout in Green Bay.
People a lot smarter than me believe that in today’s NFL you pass to score points and you run to win games. I agree with that – especially when it pertains to the Packers. With arguably the best quarterback and the most talented group of receivers in the entire league, it would make little sense for coach and play caller Mike McCarthy to essentially take the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands 50% of the time. Not only is the reigning Super Bowl MVP an incredibly talented passer, but unlike the person who preceded him at the position and shall remain nameless, he can almost always be counted on to make intelligent decisions with the ball.
OK, so back to the theory that you pass to score points and you run to win games and how exactly it relates to Johnson’s immediate future with the Packers. I fully expect the offense to have a run/pass ratio of about 35/65 in the first three quarters of most games this season. There will, of course, be exceptions based on the opponent and the weather conditions, but for the most part, Rodgers will be throwing and then throwing some more. I also fully expect the Packers to be ahead in most games heading into the final 15 minutes. And that’s when I expect McCarthy to finally start pounding the rock on a consistent basis. That’s also when a player like Johnson would be incredibly valuable to have around.
Johnson may have the grace of an elephant and the hands of Roberto Duran, but the guy can open holes. He’s naturally thick and powerfully built, he has explosive power to roll his hips and generate movement as a lead blocker and he plays physically and will finish blocks and try to bury defenders into the ground. That’s exactly the type of fullback the Packers need when they’re nursing a lead with 12 minutes left in the game. It’s also exactly the type of fullback John Kuhn has never been and will never be.
Kuhn, who ran for over 4,000 yards as a halfback at Shippensburg, is no better than an average blocker. He can get the job done, but that skill isn’t what got him a three-year contract worth over $7 million a few weeks ago. His value is his versatility. The 28-year-old can run a little, block a little, catch a little and play special teams a little. That’s what makes him so valuable. Conversely, Johnson can’t run, catch or play special teams particularly well, but he can block like hell. And that’s the only thing the Packers will need their fullback to do when the score is 24-14 and the game moves into the final quarter.
Does this mean Johnson is a lock to make the final roster? No. McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson believe in keeping the best 53 and it’s debatable whether the 24-year-old fits that criteria. There are younger players who might be able to contribute more in the future, but would a fifth tight end or a sixth wide receiver or a 10th offensive lineman give the Packers a better chance to win right now? That’ll be the dilemma facing McCarthy and Thompson five days from now. Fortunately, I no longer have such a dilemma. Johnson will be part of my final roster when I post it on Friday night. I think.