A hot battle will get even hotter whenever training camp begins.
For the first time in 76 drafts, the Green Bay Packers selected a player from the University of Hawaii, grabbing tailback Alex Green with their third-round selection on Friday night. Green, playing in a run-and-shoot offense, rushed or 1,199 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior. His per-carry average of 8.2 led the nation. Moreover, he caught 27 passes with a 13.4-yard average.
Green played two seasons at Hawaii after starting his career at Butte Community College – where Aaron Rodgers once starred. Green did not win the starting job as a junior but became the school’s first 1,000-yard rusher in almost two decades as a senior.
Before the draft, Ryan Grant and James Starks were expected to battle for the starting job, with Brandon Jackson’s status in limbo as either an unrestricted free agent or restricted free agent, depending on the language of a new labor deal. Now, the 6-foot, 220-pound Green joins the mix, with the size to run the ball on first down or short yardage but the soft hands and pass-blocking potential to take Jackson’s role on third down.
Clearly, four’s a crowd, and barring an injury, one player will not be in Green Bay for opening night against New Orleans. With Green’s third-down potential and Jackson’s uncertain contract status, Jackson would seem to be the obvious odd-man-out. But with Grant coming off of a season-ending ankle injury and owed $5.25 million in salary and roster bonus, he’s hardly a sure thing given Green’s all-around talents.
“I think we have a very talented group of backs,” new running backs coach Jerry Fontenot said. “We’ve got guys that can block very well, we’ve got guys that can run in open space very well and we’ve got guys that aren’t afraid to stick their foot in the ground and get north and south. And in this league, you can’t have enough good running backs. It pretty much seems that running back by committee is what’s blanketing the league right now and we’re no different than any other team.”
Green said catching the ball and hitting the hole hard are his strengths, while general manager Ted Thompson pointed out Green’s pass-catching ability, which was on display during the Hawaii pro day that Thompson attended earlier this month in Carson, Calif. Green doesn’t think the transition to a pro-style offense will be an issue after playing in Hawaii’s wide-open scheme. In high school and at Butte, Green said he generally lined up in the I-formation and ran “all downhill, smash-mouth football.”
The Packers spared Green from a long night by taking him with the second-to-last pick of the day.
“After about the 90th pick, I did start thinking about early fourth, mid-fourth,” he said. “But Green Bay came looking, I'm blessed.”
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