Notebook: Feature Back Or By-Committee, McCarthy Just Wants Production


With all the attention on the Packers' running back situation entering training camp, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Friday that he has no preference whether the offense goes with a feature back or a back-by-committee approach.

For McCarthy, who experienced both systems as the offensive coordinator in New Orleans earlier in his career, what matters is how productive the ground game is, not who's doing the producing.

"I've done it both ways," McCarthy said in his pre-training camp press conference. "It doesn't bother me (how it works out)."

The Packers enter 2007 needing to replace departed free agent Ahman Green, who left for Houston after finishing his Green Bay career second on the all-time rushing list.

The top two running backs coming into camp are Vernand Morency and rookie second-round draft pick Brandon Jackson, and if someone is going to emerge as a feature back, it will more than likely be one of those two.

If it becomes a back-by-committee approach, the ground game would focus on both runners, and potentially add opportunities for P.J. Pope, Noah Herron and rookie seventh-round pick DeShawn Wynn to get into the action.

For McCarthy's five seasons in New Orleans (2000-04), the Saints primarily went with a feature back, either Ricky Williams or Deuce McAllister, and had a 1,000-yard rusher each year.

But McCarthy pointed out that in 2000, when Williams went down with a broken left ankle in the 10th game, the team turned to a committee of runners including Chad Morton, Jerald Moore, Terrelle Smith and Terry Allen, along with mobile quarterback Aaron Brooks, to share various carries. The offense averaged 114 yards rushing over the season's final six games without a feature back.

"We had 'Regular Sooner,' we had 'Regular Trojan,' we were naming all the different personnel groups based on where the player played college," McCarthy said.

Either way, McCarthy noted that teams always need more than one reliable back to get through a 16-game season, and all the backs have been competing to put themselves into that mix throughout the offseason.

None of the backs on the current roster has ever been a full-time starter in the NFL, so that would logically lean the offense toward the committee approach. But McCarthy is going to see how it plays out on the field, particularly since the players haven't been in pads yet.

"When you look back at the depth chart and look at how many individuals really improved and so forth -- that doesn't buy you experience because they haven't played in a game, I'm aware of that -- but I think we have a lot of young men who have taken full advantage of our structure and our offseason program and have moved forward in their development," McCarthy said. "We need to see those dividends start to pay off here in training camp."

{sportsad300}Favre ready to go

Quarterback Brett Favre missed the last two June organized team activities he was scheduled to participate in because of shoulder soreness, but McCarthy said Favre has continued to work out over the past month with his personal trainer. Those workouts have included some throwing, though McCarthy didn't know to what extent.

So it's expected Favre, who also has fully recovered from offseason ankle surgery, will be ready for the team's first practice at 2 p.m. Saturday. The only limitation McCarthy hinted at is he might have Favre practice only once on the days with two workouts, which he did at times last year as well.

"Ken, his personal trainer, has done a very good job of implementing different exercises and movement drills off of game film," McCarthy said. "His workout has been very applicable to the quarterback position."

No. 1, for now

McCarthy wasn't reading too much into the depth chart, in part because it can change on any given day. But training camp will open with Donald Lee as the No. 1 tight end ahead of Bubba Franks, and rookie first-round draft pick Justin Harrell (provided he has signed a contract and is medically cleared) as a starting defensive tackle alongside Ryan Pickett, and ahead of Corey Williams.

McCarthy noted that the offensive play or defensive package that's called dictates who takes that snap moreso than the depth chart, because different personnel are used for different calls on both sides of the ball. But at this point, with a one tight-end look on offense, it appears Lee will take the first snap at tight end, and in the base defense, it will be Harrell and Pickett at defensive tackle.

Aiming high

One year of experience as a head coach has made McCarthy more comfortable with the role, but last year's 8-8 mark, highlighted by a season-ending four-game winning streak, confirmed for McCarthy that the foundation is in place for the team to keep moving forward.

"The vision has been confirmed, the course we're taking," he said.

But McCarthy declined to set a certain number of wins as a goal for 2007. For him, progress will be measured primarily in how much closer the Packers get to the Super Bowl.

"We're going to win the world championship here in Green Bay again," McCarthy said. "That's the view, that's the vision. We've made progress towards that goal, and we need to continue to have those small successes as we build toward that goal."

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