Three years ago the Green Bay Packers were a pass-happy offense in search of a running game. And after general manager Ted Thompson spent eight years looking for a legitimate starting running back — Eddie Lacy fell into his lap in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft and the rest as they say is history.
Since that fateful draft day when the Packers collected Lacy things have been different in Green Bay. Sure, the Packers still throw the ball all over the lot and with an MVP quarterback like Aaron Rodgers why wouldn’t you? Yet since Lacy’s arrival for the 2013 season the running game has enjoyed a nice resurgence in Green Bay and it’s one that should continue in full force in 2015.
After totaling over 1,100 yards in each of the past two seasons, Lacy has clearly put himself among the NFL’s elite at the running back position, particularly thanks to his impressive 4.4 yards per carry average and 24 total touchdowns.
To put it simply, Lacy is a machine and with defenses focused on Rodgers and his plethora of wide outs, as well as an offensive line that returns its top eight players from a season ago, the third-year pro from Alabama is poised to have his best season yet.
However, Lacy’s success or his role on the Packers is not the question fans are interested in heading into the 2015 season, they are more worried about who will be taking handoffs when Lacy isn’t.
The first answer to that question comes fairly easily as the top backup to Lacy will be James Starks for the third straight season. Starks came to the Packers in 2010 and was the starting running back during the team’s last Super Bowl title. And now he is still a key member of a backfield that is not the deepest among NFL circles. In the last two seasons, Starks has rushed for nearly a thousand yards, while averaging close to five yards a carry.
Starks like Lacy is a power runner. Yet he uses more straight line speed to explode through the hole which can help him create explosive plays when defenses aren’t expecting it. Starks also excels at catching the football and is a solid blocker. He is also more than capable of handling the starting role for a few weeks if Lacy is ever injured for an extended period of time.
But the big question facing the Packers this training camp is who will be running back number three?
There are a few decent candidates but the best boil down to Rajion Neal, who was with the Packers on the practice squad in 2014 and 2015 undrafted free agent John Crockett from North Dakota State University. Both players are strong and talented runners and both are blessed with good size and enough quickness to contribute in the NFL. The question really boils down to who can stay healthy, who can contribute on special teams and who does a better job in pass protection?
These questions will be answered in the coming weeks but I fully expect either Neal or Crockett to win the job as the third running back, although Alonzo Harris of Lousiana-Lafayette will also be in the mix and in the NFL, in Green Bay in particular, when it comes to the final 53-man roster, anything can happen.