He's not star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, he's not Pro Bowl wide reciever Greg Jennings or any other of the fleet of talented wideouts Green Bay has assembled, he ain't drop-prone Jermichael Finley and he's certainly not James Starks. When you give Ryan Grant the ball, the result will not be flashy, it won't be sexy and it probably won't make the ESPN highlight reels.
Right now, though, Grant is getting it done.
I went back and looked at the tape from Grant's last two games, against the Raiders (10 carries, 85 yards) and Chiefs (12 for 66) and concluded that he's probably playing the best of any skill-position player the Packers have right now.
Against the Raiders, Grant looked like he was back to his 2007 form (he ran for 156 yards and a TD on 29 carries when Green Bay played Oakland that year). Grant was patient in the backfield, making two cuts on his 47-yard TD run, and benefited from McCarthy putting him in single-back situations about eight yards in the backfield. It looked to me like Grant was really getting back to the basics of the zone scheme: make one cut, attack the hole.
It's also no secret that Grant does best when he's given time to build up a head of steam, which is why the deep set in the backfield works so well for him. On two particular occasions - a first and 10 and a second and 4 - he just picked a hole early on that Bryan Bulaga carved out for him and slashed right through, gaining 19 yards on those two carries. There's very little indecisiveness to his game right now, and he's making the right decisions in the backfield. On one outside run where Tom Crabtree was getting pushed back and cutting off Grant’s path, he reversed direction, got around that debacle and plunged ahead for 1. It doesn’t sound impressive, but that play could easily have been –3 through no fault of Grant’s.
Grant also looks like he's running angry, for whatever reason. It was particularly noticeable against the Chiefs. Not only is he breaking arm-tackles, which the Grant of old didn't always do, he's always looking to deliver a blow to some unlucky defender instead of the reverse. On two 13- and 18-yard gains, Grant finished by crashing into the safety and falling forward for extra yardage. That's the kind of thing you like to see from him.
Finally, he's never been much of a receiver, but Grant has unexpectedly blossomed in that role as well. He's had four catches for 48 yards in the last two games, most successfully when Rodgers throws him the ball and allows him to get a head of steam thereby. He had a juggling 22-yard catch against the Chiefs and bulled ahead for a 13-yard catch against the Raiders in just that fashion.
In Grant’s 22 carries over the last two games, he has rushed for 151 yards (6.86 yards/carry) and two touchdowns. If you add the receiving, that’s 199 yards on 26 touches, or 7.65 yards per touch. There is no reason for Mike McCarthy not to let him pound the rock more, especially given Aaron Rodgers’ sudden case of the yips, Greg Jennings’ temporary absence, the imminent lousy weather at Lambeau Field and injuries to three of Green Bay’s top four tackles and their subsequent pass protection woes.
The Packers paid Grant $2.5 million to be their No. 2 back this season, and he seems prepared to earn every penny. The only question is whether McCarthy will let him.