Regardless of which players general manager Ted Thompson chooses in the upcoming draft, I doubt any of them will excite me as much as a young player already on the roster. I’m referring to Alex Green, the second-year running back whose rookie season was ended by a torn ACL in week 7. According to Mike McCarthy, rehabilitation is going well. “Alex looks really good,” said the coach. “Seeing him in the weight room every day, he looks like he’s really progressing.” That’s obviously great news for the player, and it’s also great news for the team. A healthy Green should make one of the most dynamic offenses in league history even better.
Green, who is blessed with both size (6’0, 225) and speed (4.44), averaged over 8 yards per carry as a senior. So why was he still available at the end of round three? There were a few reasons. Scouts were wary because Hawaii used a spread offense, which meant there were often gaping holes for Green to run through. Projecting how he’d fare in a more traditional scheme was a problem. So was his penchant for fumbling. He put the ball on the ground 8 times in 271 touches. Throw in the devaluation of the running back in today’s NFL, and it isn’t all that shocking that 95 players were selected before Green’s name came off the board.
Even after spending a week at practice and watching every snap of every game from August through January, it’s still difficult to evaluate Green as a runner. Practice is just practice. Running plays against your own teammates is hardly the same as taking a handoff against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in late December. And the preseason is just the preseason. Running behind offensive linemen and against defensive linemen who’ll soon be pumping gas or flipping burgers is hardly conducive to evaluating a halfback. So what makes me so excited about Green? Take a look:
I realize it was only one play, but that screen pass was a thing of beauty. Watch how easily Green caught the ball, how quickly he turned up field and how much patience he showed. Then watch the moves he put on in the open field. There aren’t many 225-pound backs who can do that. He reminded me of a combination of Dorsey Levens and Ahman Green. That’s why this young man is going to be a huge addition to the offense in ’12 – regardless of whether he ever carries the ball. Ryan Grant and James Starks are reliable out of the backfield, but neither has the ability to make tacklers miss in the open field. And that’s exactly what an offense needs when going up against defenses that are scared to death about getting beat deep by Greg Jennings or Jordy Nelson or down the seam by Jermichael Finley.
Assuming the knee is OK and the fumbling issue is resolved, the only thing that could keep Green from making an impact next season is an inability to pick up the blitz. McCarthy won’t put a back in the game on third down unless he can be counted on to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Green has the physical and the mental skills needed to do the job. He has good base strength and he pays close attention to detail. His biggest problem last summer was mostly technique. While he was usually quick to locate targets in traffic, he didn’t always face up defenders. If he’s healthy enough to participate in a full training camp, I wouldn’t expect this to be an issue once the regular season begins.