(USA Today Sports Images)
The NFL is a passing league, and only the Saints might epitomize that more than the Packers. Green Bay hasn't had a 100-yard rusher since Week 5 of the 2010 season, and is still winning at about a 75 percent clip during the last three seasons.
It's hard to imagine the Packers want to be a totally balanced offense, considering they just gave quarterback Aaron Rodgers a $110 million extension to make him the highest paid player in NFL history. Green Bay's identity is tied into Rodgers throwing the ball, and they'd be crazy to change that formula too much.
The Packers' thought has to be that in the best-case scenario, they stick to the same approximate 57-43 pass-run ratio they've had the last three years, but they're much better in that 43 percent with Lacy and Franklin rather than guys like James Starks and DuJuan Harris wasting plays. And as a result, a more effective running game makes Rodgers even better.
General manager Ted Thompson's view has to be that a better running game will take pressure off Rodgers, and also keep him upright. The Packers allowed 51 sacks last year, second in the league. No matter how good Green Bay's passing game is, predictable is predictable. It was much easier for pass rushers when there was no concern about the mediocre tailbacks Rodgers had to hand the ball to. There is also a good argument to be made that Lacy slipped too far to No. 61 and Franklin definitely slipped too far to No. 125, and both were good values.
The counter argument might be that Green Bay has been wildly successful with perhaps the worst running game in the league, and those picks could have been used to help a defense that is slipping badly and bottomed out in a playoff loss against San Francisco last year. There were good defensive players on the board when the Packers chose Lacy and Franklin.
It seems a bit odd to invest so much in the running game, when the Packers have built a championship offense entirely around Rodgers in the passing game. They shouldn't want to stray too far away from that. But if Lacy and Franklin are as good as they were at Alabama and UCLA, it obviously makes the Packers even tougher for opposing defensive coordinators to prepare for. If that ultimately helps Rodgers, all the better.
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