GREEN BAY, Wis. — When former USC running back Marc Tyler went undrafted in April, signing a free-agent contract with the Green Bay Packers just made sense.
As Green Bay was expressing interest in Tyler the moment the draft concluded, so were the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders. But Tyler’s agent, Sean Howard, a former player personnel executive with the Packers, sold his client on Green Bay being the best destination.
“He just told me about the team and the fans here and all the history in Green Bay,” Tyler told FOXSportsWisconsin.com after Friday’s training camp practice.
But the most important factor for Tyler, a former five-star recruit coming out of high school in California, was the opportunity to make a team’s active roster as a rookie. His production at USC never matched his recruiting billing, but Tyler sees a chance for a fresh start in Green Bay.
“The young running backs here, they’re all good, but this is probably the best place for me to come, best position for me to get a roster spot,” Tyler said.
The Packers are young and inexperienced at running back this season after not offering a new contract to veteran Ryan Grant, who had back-to-back 1,200-yard rushing seasons in 2008 and ’09.
James Starks, a sixth-round pick in 2010, led Green Bay in rushing yards last season with 578 while splitting carries with Grant. In training camp this year, Starks is No. 1 on the Packers’ depth chart.
Green Bay added Hawaii running back Alex Green in the third round of the 2011 draft, but he suffered a season-ending ACL injury as a rookie. Green passed his pre-training camp physical, but the coaching staff is still being cautious with his total number of snaps.
Currently third on the Packers’ depth chart at running back is Brandon Saine, who may be the best example of what Tyler hopes to become. Saine was signed by Green Bay as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and began the season on the practice squad. However, after Green’s injury, Saine was called up to the active roster and finished the season with 18 rushing attempts and 10 receptions. Now, Saine appears to be a very likely choice to make the active roster in 2012.
Tyler is listed at 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, but even without pads on, he looks much bigger than that. With his size, Tyler could offer something to McCarthy’s offense that none of the other running backs can.
“(I could be) a bigger power back,” Tyler said. “Just a back who can catch, block and run. Be a complete back and just stay in all game.”
The Packers finished 27th in the NFL last season in team rushing yards, and without Grant, it seems possible they could struggle even more in 2012. But if Starks emerges, Green gets healthy and lives up to being a high draft pick or former undrafted players like Saine or Tyler prove to be valuable, Green Bay might be able to turn it around and give opposing defenses something to gameplan for other than the dominant right arm of Aaron Rodgers.
“I feel like we can (get better as a running team),” Tyler said. “It’s going to take a group contribution. We all have to push each other, make each other better. That’s the thing I notice about the room: Nobody is jealous of somebody else, nobody tries to bring somebody else down. We all work together.
“John Kuhn has been a big help for all of us. He’s a guy who’s been here quite a while and just been helping us out.” Follow Paul Imig on Twitter.