Of­fen­sive line­men stand out among many stars

Packer Plus - - News - Zach Kruse Spe­cial to Packer Plus

The run­ning back al­ways gets the stats and glory. The block­ers get noth­ing more than the sat­is­fac­tion of a job well done.

Such is life for those along the of­fen­sive line, who play a thank­less po­si­tion and rarely get recog­ni­tion.

The run block­ers of the Green Bay Pack­ers de­serve a good deal of credit for the 195 yards rush­ing pro­duced dur­ing Sun­day’s 31-12 win over the Mi­ami Dol­phins.

Sec­ond-year run­ning back Aaron Jones is a bud­ding star, with the in­stinc­tive vi­sion and shot-out-of-a-can­non quick­ness nec­es­sary to find the holes and burst through them with speed. But some­one has to make the holes, and the Pack­ers’ run-block­ing group did plenty of work Sun­day night.

Jones’ big­gest runs against the Dol­phins re­vealed a com­mon theme. Not only was the of­fen­sive line con­sis­tently win­ning at the point of at­tack, but they were get­ting to the sec­ond level and cre­at­ing the creases Jones needed to break into the sec­ondary for huge chunks of yardage.

“I think they dom­i­nated the line of scrim­mage,” quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers said. “We ran the ball well, we used tempo and cadence at times, but (Aaron) Jones doesn’t need a lot of space on his runs, and we had a cou­ple nice schematic things that we did and then a cou­ple just dou­ble teams at the point of at­tack. It was nice to sit back and watch that tonight.” They got to work right away. On the Pack­ers’ sec­ond play from scrim­mage, left guard Lane Tay­lor, tight end Marcedes Lewis and left tackle David Bakhtiari de­liv­ered seal blocks on the edge, and cen­ter Corey Lins­ley’s sec­ondlevel block al­lowed Jones to cut it back and sprint up­field for 12 yards. He was left one-on-one with the safety and was a missed tackle away from a big play.

Block­ing is eas­ier when a run­ning back has the nat­u­ral ath­leti­cism to iden­tify an open­ing and burst through it without los­ing speed.

“His abil­ity to see the hole and hit it full speed, and to cut at full speed is what makes him spe­cial,” Bakhtiari said.

A few plays later, coach Mike Mc­Carthy di­aled up a lead draw. Once again, ex­e­cu­tion at the point of at­tack was close to per­fect.

Right guard Bryon Bell sealed his man. Right tackle Bryan Bu­laga al­lowed his de­fender to get up­field be­fore seal­ing him off. Tight end Lance Ken­dricks led through the re­sult­ing hole and elim­i­nated a line­backer. Tight end Jimmy Gra­ham re­leased to the sec­ond level and dis­rupted the other line­backer in the box.

The re­sult? Jones wasn’t touched by a de­fender un­til he was 10 or 11 yards down­field.

Not known for his block­ing, Gra­ham pro­duced sev­eral key blocks to spring big run plays against the Dol­phins.

“I was block­ing tonight,” Gra­ham said with a smile. “On a cou­ple of those big plays, I was in there mak­ing some pretty big blocks.”

Gra­ham de­liv­ered one on Jones’ 67yard run in the first quar­ter.

The play­call re­quired the of­fen­sive line to de­liver dou­ble-team blocks in­side. Each suc­cess­ful block took away a de­fen­sive tackle. Gra­ham shot to the sec­ond level and blocked one line­backer, and Rodgers’ fake boot­leg elim­i­nated the other, al­low­ing Jones to crease the Dol­phins de­fense right up the mid­dle.

“Just see­ing a big ol’ lane, like the seas parted,” Jones said when asked what he re­mem­bered from the play.

The Pack­ers run­ning back wasn’t touched un­til a Dol­phins de­fen­sive back chased him down in­side the 5-yard line, set­ting up a touch­down.

Jones’ sec­ond score was an­other mas­ter­class of run block­ing.

The cut­back run started left but quickly flowed back right, where Bu­laga sealed his de­fender in­side, Lins­ley took away one line­backer at the sec­ond level and Gra­ham did just enough to seal off de­fen­sive end Cameron Wake. Jones raced through the al­ley and pin­balled off a few de­fend­ers at the goal line for the touch­down.

“You know I love run­ning the foot­ball,” Bell said. “It’s a great thing as an of­fen­sive line to get over 100 yards rush­ing.”

Jones was over 100 yards rush­ing by half­time. He fin­ished with 145, a new ca­reer high. The Pack­ers rushed for a sea­son-high 195 yards, the team’s most since a De­cem­ber win over the Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers last year.

“The run block­ing unit played very well,” Mc­Carthy said. “I think we gave Aaron some re­ally clean creases and he def­i­nitely hit them and had some big runs.”

Through 10 weeks, the Pack­ers lead the NFL in rush­ing yards per at­tempt at 5.2. Only 31 teams since 1970 have fin­ished a sea­son av­er­ag­ing at least 5.0 yards per at­tempt.

Jones’ dy­namic run­ning style has helped trans­formed the Pack­ers’ run­ning game, but the foun­da­tion of the league’s most ef­fi­cient rush­ing at­tack is still the block­ers work­ing up front.

The group dom­i­nated the Dol­phins dur­ing Sun­day’s win and will likely pro­vide the horse­power for any po­ten­tial sec­ond-half run by the Pack­ers.

DAN POW­ERS / USA TO­DAY NET­WORK-WIS­CON­SIN

The Green Bay Pack­ers’ of­fen­sive line opens up a huge hole for run­ning back Aaron Jones, who breaks free for a 67-yard run against the Mi­ami Dol­phins on Sun­day.

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