Loss of Grant puts pressure on Packers’ offensive line

In the minds of many, the Green Bay Packers were a solid preseason pick for the Super Bowl. The season-ending right ankle injury to Ryan Grant means any run by the Packers will be without their featured running back.

Grant was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday, a significant blow to the Packers, given their lack of proven depth at the position.

It’s presumed that Brandon Jackson is the first choice as an in-house replacement for Grant. Jackson, though, has just three career starts and minimal experience as a full-time featured starter dating back to his days at Nebraska. I decided to check in with NFL Network analyst Solomon Wilcots — who featured the Packers on NFL Playbook on Tuesday — to go over the impact of the injury, and he had some great points:

“What this does now is put more pressure on the offensive line to protect. The problem is, I saw some breakdowns against the Eagles. Aaron Rodgers didn’t play that well, and he was getting hit often. The game showed that the protection problems are still a concern. The offensive line was getting bullied. I don’t know how long Rodgers is going to stay healthy if he continues to stare down the field and not watch the pass rush in order to find open receivers. The loss of Grant and his production in the running game only puts more on the shoulders of Rodgers and on the offensive line in pass protection.

“Right now, there’s a huge drop off to Jackson. He hasn’t stepped up and become the runner they thought he would be. They’ve been waiting for him to break out. He’s just an unknown right now, although I do like his ability. With Jackson, the big question is whether he can bounce back each week and play at less than 100 percent. That’s what it will take to replace Grant week to week. I still consider the Packers a contender, but the onus is now on the offensive line.

Wilcots’ concern over Jackson isn’t one of ability, but rather the unknown: How will he respond after the punishment that each week brings, as well as his ability to play hurt? The Packers could use more of a committee approach, using fullback John Kuhn in certain situations. The only other tailback on the roster is Dimitri Nance, who was signed Tuesday.

It remains to be seen how much the Packers need from the running game to be successful, but the onus is now on Rodgers and the offensive line.

— Frank Tadych

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