BGA: Scouting Alex Green

Bent, TheJetsBlog.com

The Jets made three waiver claims this week, as well as signing Brady Quinn. We’ve already looked at Ben Ijalana and Scott Solomon, but today it’s the turn for Bent’s Game Analysis to look at running back Alex Green. Jets fans might not know too much about Green, so I’ve been looking at game footage to get some idea of what he brings to the table.

Green is a 6-0, 225-pounder who was a third round pick of the Packers in 2011. He didn’t play much in his rookie season, but led the Packers in rushing last season, although he only averaged 3.4 yards per carry and did not score a touchdown. He was released in final cuts after rushing for just 72 yards on 21 carries in preseason. There’s a more a detailed look at his performances with the Packers after the jump.

Who is Alex Green?

After transferring from a junior college, the 25-year old Green went to college at Hawaii, where he rushed for 1,199 yards and 18 touchdowns as a Senior. He ran a 4.45 forty at the 2011 scouting combine and the Packers selected him with the 96th overall pick. The Jets now have five of the top 100 picks from that draft on their roster (and seven of the top 126).

In his rookie season, Green played in just four games and saw action on offense in just two. He played a total of seven snaps, carrying three times for 11 yards and catching a six yard pass. He also committed one penalty on special teams.

In 2012, he ended up starting four games and rushed for 464 yards, as well as catching 18 passes for another 125 yards. He displayed an ability to handle a load when he carried at least 20 games for three straight games in October, but averaged just 2.4 yards per carry in those three games and only 3.4 yards per carry for the season as a whole.

If you’re wondering if he was more productive in preseason, the answer is a resounding no, as he has averaged just 2.4 yards per carry on 55 preseason carries over the past three seasons. His 3.4 yards per carry this preseason actually represented his best preseason campaign.

Therefore, let’s look back at his performances this preseason with the Packers so we can begin to assess his strengths and weaknesses.

2013 Preseason

Week One – Cardinals

Green saw action over the last three quarters but was always in a battle to keep his spot after the Packers had drafted both Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin and retained James Starks. In game one, he rushed seven times for 16 yards. His first six carries all gained between one and three yards, but he did finish up with an eight yard run and he made a cut and a spin move, then fell forward. In pass protection, he reacted late on a blitz pickup and allowed a quarterback hit.

Week Two – Rams

In the second game, he saw action in the second half and rushed for 15 yards on five carries. He also caught a 14-yard pass and had two other runs, one for no gain and one for seven to the outside, negated by penalties. 13 of his rushing yards actually came on one carry, as he made a cut upfield and then another cut at the second level. His 14 yard catch saw him release out for a screen pass and head upfield.

Week Three – Seahawks

In this game, he only played in the fourth quarter, although he did have one highlight on a toss sweep to the outside where he cut back up the seam to gain 31. His other carry went for no gain. In this game, the Packers started using him as a kick returner too and he showed good burst on a 32-yard runback.

Week Four – Chiefs

In the final game, he got the start but none of his seven carries gained more than three yards, gaining 10 in total. He also failed to gain any yards on a screen pass as he slipped over when he caught the ball. He did return one kickoff for 25 yards.

All told, 18 of his 21 carries went for three yards or less and the other three accounted for 52 of his 72 yards. While this is disappointing to say the least, it wasn’t like he left a lot of yards on the field, there just wasn’t much running room. However, you’d like him to create more than that, especially against backups. This does not bode too well.

Observations

Based on all the regular season footage I watched, here was my take on what Green brings to the table, divided into categories:

Usage - The Packers don’t mess around with their running backs’ positions too often. Green split out wide once in preseason and not at all (or in the slot) last year. The only time he wasn’t a conventional running back in 2012 was when the Packers were in a victory formation.

He wasn’t used a great deal in short yardage situations, carrying just eight times on third down with two yards or less to go. He converted five of these.

Running Ability – While Green’s constant low averages are perhaps a cause for concern, some of that can be attributed to the Packers run blocking. They averaged just 3.9 yards per carry as a team and, in the postseason, when Green did not play, they gained just 76 yards on 31 carries. It’s not like Green was completely incapable of having a statistically productive performance; in 2012 he had four games where he carried at least 10 times and averaged at least 4.8 yards per carry. At the same time, he had six games where he averaged 3.0 yards per carry or less.

When he does get into the open field, Green can look really good. Check out the moves on this run, the longest of his NFL career. His college highlight reels are littered with plays like that too. Mornhinweg’s offense aims to get elusive runners into space and that’s what you need to do with Green. Despite having a good combination of size and speed, so far in his NFL career he has needed there to be a hole in order to gain any yardage and doesn’t often seem to make something out of nothing.

He doesn’t really dance in the backfield and I wouldn’t necessarily say he lacks vision, but you don’t really see him try to cut back against the grain or anything like that very often.

He did break 12 tackles in 135 carries in 2012, but only averaged 2.1 yards after contact per carry, which is not very good.

Pass Protection – Here is somewhere that Green can help the Jets. He stayed in to block 81 times and gave up just two pressures – good enough for the 7th best pass blocking efficiency rating in the league according to PFF. Where he did surrender pressure, it was because he failed to react in time or made a bad read, not because he was overpowered or missed his block. The Jets’ backs gave up four sacks, one hit and nine pressures in just over 200 pass block snaps last year, so Green could play a role on third downs.

Receiving Threat - On the subject of third downs, his pass catching ability is another way he can help the team. Since he struggles to get to the second level on a regular basis, throwing him short passes was a good way for the Packers to get him out in space. He didn’t run any routes, they were all on screens, swing passes and checkdowns, but he looks good catching the ball and turning upfield.

Hands - Green’s hands aren’t perfect, but he does look like a natural pass catcher. According to PFF numbers, he caught 18 passes on 28 targets, but some of those could probably be called throw aways. He did drop two – one on a screen pass where he must have just lost concentration and another on a shovel pass that went off his fingertips. There was also one play where he slipped as he caught the ball on another shovel pass and then had it stripped by a defensive lineman as he tried to get to his feet. However, this was his only NFL fumble.

Injuries – Green’s rookie year was cut short when he suffered a knee injury, landing him on injured reserve after just seven games of the season. He’d also suffered an Achilles problem earlier in the year. In 2012, he was listed a few times with knee and shoulder issues and then missed time at the end of the year with a concussion.

Special Teams – Green could help out here. He was on the punt return unit as part of their punt block package and also on the punt unit blocking on the edge and getting out in coverage. He doesn’t have any special teams tackles to his name, but did have one penalty. As noted, they gave him a chance to return a couple of kicks and he looked good doing so, but lacks experience as a return man.

Attitude – I didn’t see anything from the footage to indicate that Green’s attitude was anything out of the ordinary. He did get a taunting penalty in the last preseason game, but they never showed the incident that gave rise to it – and it was offset by an unnecessary roughness call.

Scheme Familiarity – Green obviously comes from a team with a west coast offense, so there should be some familiarity from that standpoint, although I do wonder if Green’s initial lack of familiarity with that system is one of the reasons for the slow start to his career. In college, he played in a spread offense, so was used to there being much more running room. In terms of how well he fits the system though, his experience as a pass blocker and ability to catch short passes and make things happen in space should make him a good fit on third downs.

Conclusions

Green’s departure from the Packers was inevitable after the two guys they added in the draft and his addition to the Jets could be a short term thing, unless he displays an ability to pick up chunks of yardage in the running game on a more consistent basis.

However, he does have a skill-set that would lend itself well to a third down back role, at least until Mike Goodson is ready to join the fray. He can catch passes and pick up the blitz and if you can get him into space, which Mornhinweg’s offense is designed to do, he has the ability to make plays. He may also make contributions on special teams as well, if active.

We’ll take a look at Brady Quinn tomorrow…