Now that we know that Steven Jackson will not be joining the Green Bay Packers, the team needs to move on to other options. Jackson agreed to terms with the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday, although there was some speculation in the Green Bay Press Gazette that he could soon be joining the Packers.
But it didn't happen, and now it's time to look for running back help in other areas. The Packers are bringing in free-agent running back Peyton Hillis for a visit soon, according to a report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Hillis is actually better suited for the role that fullback John Kuhn currently has in Green Bay, so who knows how that situation will evolve. Hillis rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2010 when he was with the Cleveland Browns, plus catches the ball well and is an effective blocker.
In terms of getting more help at the tailback position, the Packers might have their answer right in their backyard. That would be Montee Ball, who played his college football at the University of Wisconsin.
In the first mock draft I did for the Packers about a month ago, I had the Packers selecting Ball as a matter of fact.
Ball brings the Packers a lot of positive attributes. He runs with power, has excellent vision, can cut back very quickly, knows how to get to the end zone, catches the ball well and is a solid blocker.
Ball also brings an impressive résumé. Overall in his career at Wisconsin, Ball rushed for 5,040 yards, plus had 58 receptions for 591 more yards. He also has the FBS all-time touchdown record with 82 touchdowns. Seventy-six of those touchdowns were by rushing, which also is an all-time FBS record.
Ball rushed for over 1,000 yards three straight years for the Badgers and came close to 2,000 yards the last two seasons.
In 2011, Ball rushed for 1,923 yards and 33 rushing touchdowns and added six receiving touchdowns. He was a Heisman finalist that year as well.
In 2012, the 5'11", 215-pound Ball had 1,830 yards and 22 touchdowns. Ball also won the the Doak Walker Award (nation's top running back).
In both seasons, Ball was named to the first-team Associated Press All-American team at running back.
Ball finished his senior year strong at Wisconsin. He rushed for 202 yards and three touchdowns in the Big Ten Championship Game against Nebraska, then added 100 more yards and another touchdown in the Rose Bowl versus Stanford.
Ball is the first running back in Rose Bowl history to rush for over 100 yards in three consecutive games, plus score a touchdown in three straight games.
"Montee Ball is still a very good back," Landry said. "I think he's a guy who will go in the top three rounds and be a good player. He did run well and you can convert those times on campus, but he's not a speed guy. He's a good down-hill runner, who's got some speed for his size, but not a run-away from you guy. He's quick and he's got some burst to him, and I think he'll be a very good back who will play in the league."
Landry was referring to the Pro Day performance that Ball had at Wisconsin, as he posted a 4.46 time in the 40-yard dash. That was after Ball had posted a 4.66 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Ball said that he had a sinus infection at the combine.
One of the many interested NFL observers at Ball's Pro Day, as reported by Cheesehead TV, was general manager Ted Thompson of the Packers.
Ball put on quite a show for Thompson and actually spoke to the man who runs the draft for the Packers.
“He just talked to me about all the good stuff that I’ve been doing on tape,” Ball said. “He said, ‘You know how to play football. You’ve been doing the right things.’ And he’s very excited about it.”
Ball also thought the Packers might be interested in drafting him.
“I think they are because you hear whispers they’re looking for a three-down back,” Ball said, “and hopefully I’ve shown them that in my four years of college and today.”
That is exactly what head coach Mike McCarthy said at the combine when he met with the media, via Packers.com.
"Three-down back is what you want to play with," McCarthy said. "No one likes to come out of the game, and I'd rather them stay in the game (when I'm) calling plays. Three-down back is something that, as you go through the evaluation process, is something that's part of their grade, part of their value. Whether you share them or have one, I really think your depth chart takes care of that."
McCarthy than added, "Just looking back at my experiences, it's nicer when you have one guy and you're feeding him. There's more rhythm to your play-calling and there's more of a rhythm to the run-blocking unit and the fits of the protection and so forth, and then you take it and extend it into the passing game with the checkdowns."
That sure sounds like Ball, if you followed his career at Wisconsin. That is why the Packers were also interested in Jackson. But Jackson is obviously not coming to Green Bay, while Ball certainly seems to be a match with what the Packers are looking for at running back.
Performing very well in front of his possible future boss at his Pro Day certainly won't hurt Ball's chances of being drafted by the Packers either.
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