What's Next for Johnathan Franklin?
Every backfield can benefit from having different kind of backs to implement in different situations. Big, powerful backs dominate near the goal line. Small, shifty backs are best in the open field.
So where does a slightly undersized jitterbug of a running back who's coming off a neck injury fit in with the rest of the Packers backfield? Does he fit at all?
I'm speaking, of course, about Johnathan Franklin, the undeniably talented by mystifying second year running back out of UCLA. Franklin famously struggled in the preseason, talked about it on Twitter, ended up making the team, disappeared for the first two weeks of the season, resurfaced in Cincinnati only to fumble away the game late, then never got his mojo back.
After his 103 yard explosion against the Bengals, Franklin only registered seven more offensive touches the rest of the season, totaling only 11 yards. He finally ended up on injured reserve after a neck injury in Week 11. We haven't seen him since.
Franklin has yet to take the field in OTA's, and I'm beginning to wonder if we'll ever see much of him again. Ted Thompson is loathe to part with his own draft picks, particularly one with a fourth round pedigree like Franklin. But he's also facing uphill competition for carriers from the reigning rookie of the year, a long-time vet coming off his best season, and a returning wunderkind who's already drawing rave reviews of his own.
Couple that with a returning second year man who happens to be one of the most productive DII college players ever and two other hungry rookies who would shed no tears if they take a veterans job, and it's easy to envision a situation where Johnathan Franklin, through almost no fault of his own, doesn't make the team.
Ideally, Franklin would get over the jitters he displayed on kickoff returns last year and contribute on special teams in some way. He's most certainly a back-up this year, and those toward the bottom of the depth chart absolutely must contribute in more ways than one to be worth keeping around. Showing some flash on kickoff returns would be one way for Franklin to do that.
If he manages to get healthy for training camp, Franklin's response to this added competition will be one of the stories to watch this year. Will he be the jump-cutting slasher who inspired a comeback in Cincinnati? Or will he be the tentative, overwhelmed back we saw in the preseason last year? Only time will tell, but he'd better make up his mind sooner rather than later.