Packers counting on Brandon Jackson

If I had even a penny for every time a Green Bay fan has asked about Brian Westbrook or LaDainian Tomlinson or some other possibility to provide depth behind tailback Ryan Grant, well, I'd have many coins. Let's face it: It would be out of character for the Packers to sign a veteran free agent this time of year.

But there are other elements at play here as well. Listening to coach Mike McCarthy speak last week at the NFL owners meeting, it sure sounded like he has supreme confidence in Brandon Jackson to handle the job. If a veteran becomes a necessity at some point, Ahman Green might be the first option.

McCarthy said he thought Jackson took a "huge step" last season, specifically in a Dec. 20 game at Pittsburgh.

"I thought against Pittsburgh that his blitz pickup was as good as I've seen since Marcus Allen in the early '90s," McCarthy said. "And his confidence and everything from that game, I thought he took a big step and I'm hoping he can maintain that or take it further as we move on."

My thoughts on this topic have evolved now that Grant has established himself as a legitimate full-time runner. As with Minnesota, the Packers' backup running back is a secondary role that becomes a big deal only if the starter is unavailable. Grant has proved exceptionally durable in three years with the Packers, playing in 47 of a possible 48 games.

The Packers haven't often gotten big-time yardage from a backup running back in recent years, as you can see in the chart below. Last season, in fact, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was their second-leading rusher. Green and Jackson followed with 160 and 111 yards, respectively.

So while you can never rule out the possibility of high-profile addition, most clues -- and common sense -- suggest the Packers will put their faith in Jackson to handle this role in 2010.