Carroll County Times

Ravens aware of improved Packers rushing attack

OWINGS MILLS - The Packers' offense is undoubtedly built around Aaron Rodgers the passing game.
There's Rodgers, three talented and productive receivers in Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones and one of the more dangerous pass-catching tight ends in the league in Jermichael Finley.
But while Rodgers is still putting up Rodgers-like numbers, Green Bay has also been hurting opposing defenses on the ground, adding an element to the offense that had been missing for much of the last few years.
The Packers ranked just 20th in the NFL in rushing offense last season, but they took two running backs in the first four rounds of this year's NFL draft, Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin. And aided by those two running backs, Green Bay is fifth in the league in rushing yards per game and is averaging 5.3 yards per carry as a team, the second highest average in the NFL.
"I think this year we're changing some of those preconceptions about us," Rodgers said during a conference call with Baltimore media this week.
He later added, "Obviously teams are playing us a little more to pass because we have here in the past, but I think we can do some good things in the running game, and Eddie gives us a different dimension than we've had back there in awhile."
Lacy was one of the top-rated running back prospects in this year's draft and was picked by the Packers late in the second round.
He's a big, Trent Richardson-style power runner who was a key part of Alabama's National Championship team last season.
He's averaging just 3.9 yards per carry this year, but he had 99 yards on 23 carries during Green Bay's win over the Detroit Lions last week, helping to pick up the slack at running back with starter James Starks sidelined by a knee injury.
Lacy and Franklin will be the Packers' two primary ball carriers against the Ravens this weekend with Starks still sidelined.
Franklin only had three carries last week, but he ran for 103 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3.
The Ravens' rush defense has been one of the best in the NFL and has limited opposing ball carriers to an average of just 3.4 yards per carry, but Green Bay is now a team that can do some damage on the ground in addition to whatever it does with Rodgers and all through the air.
"They're spread out a lot. They're going to throw the ball a lot. And they've got great, talented receivers and tight ends," Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "So all of a sudden, you get a little spread out. And then in the running game, you need a back who can break tackles. ...
"Starks I think was that. Lacy is definitely that. 23 [Franklin] is a good back, too."