Diamond in the rough at RB for Packers
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor
~Even with the sad ending to Jonathan Franklin’s short career, the Packers might have their best depth at RB in the Ted Thompson Era.
True, that can end quickly with injuries. Just look at San Francisco, who this week alone lost number two RB Kendall Hunter for the year with a snapped Achilles, and then also lost LaMichael James to an arm. He’s not lost for the season, but these are injuries before there’s any real contact in the preseason.
It just illustrates how fluid “depth” really is. Nobody should know better about that than Cheesehead Nation.
That being said, as it stands right now, the Packers have a guy who nobody projects to even make the roster who I feel is capable of being a thousand-yard rusher in today’s NFL.
He’s a guy who had over 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns last year in, perhaps, a tougher conference than the NFC, that being the SEC.
He had five 100-yard games last season, including one against #7-ranked Auburn, scoring a 17-yard touchdown. Also scored a touchdown against the fine defense of Alabama last season.
I introduce you to Rajion Neal, from Tennessee.
- Full name: Rajion Lashad Neal
- First name pronounced RAY-zhon
- Born: March 28, 1992
Projected by many experts to be about a 4th, 5th, or 6th round prospect, the 22-year old went undrafted. The running back position has certainly been devalued recently in the NFL, for various reasons.
But that means there’s plenty of talent available late or undrafted.
He reminds me a bit of the Redskins Alfred Morris, who two years ago was drafted late in the draft when ESPN was interviewing clowns and magicians, ignoring the actual draft. Morris is 5′ 10″, 224 while Neal is 5′ 11″ and 220.
Morris has proven to be a durable workhorse already in the NFL for Washington, paired with Robert Griffin III.
Neal won’t have to be. But he does face tough odds just making the team behind Ed Lacy, James Starks, and DuJuan Harris. The Packers probably will only keep three on the roster, making the Practice Squad a possible September destination for Neal.
However, last year Harris wasn’t able to make it out of camp, and as the Niners just found out, guys can go down.
So keep an eye on #34 during open practices and exhibition games (called preseason) this August. The first one comes at Tennessee, coincidentally, for this former Volunteer stud.
What a lot of people fail to realize is that there are a lot of breaks, luck, that go into a longshot making a roster. If Neal gets decent blocking, he’s going to without question, show why I am so high on him.
But if the blocking by the backups falls apart and defenders are bursting through left and right, it’s going to be hard to impress.
I don’t know how it’s all going to play out, and I surely want the Tremendous Trio to all make it through healthy, but I really want to see #34 make the roster and get a chance to show that he can be not only just a “player” in the league, but he can be a good player in this league for a long time.