For as long as Aaron Rodgers has been the starting quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, they have been a pass-heavy offense. However, with their contingent of receivers not quite as impressive as it used to be, it might be time for the Packers to become more balanced offensively. Judging by the fact that they were 20th in the NFL in rushing last year, and haven’t had a running back gain 100 yards in a single game since the 2010 season, Green Bay has a long way to go to develop a consistent and productive rushing attack.
The Packers were so ineffective at running back last season that Rodgers, who doesn’t exactly spring to mind when the phrase dual-threat quarterback is mentioned, was second on the team in rushing, as well as second to wide receiver Randall Cobb in yards per rush. Of course, Green Bay did well to recognize their deficiency and addressed it in the draft, picking up Eddie Lacy in the second round and Johnathan Franklin in the fourth round. They also bring back last year’s leading rushing Alex Green and James Starks, who led the team in rushing in 2011. A wildcard in the group could be DuJuan Harris, who started both of Green bay’s playoff games last season, but is still recovering from a knee injury and may not have the opportunity to earn a spot on the team. It’s from that group of backs that the Packers will hope to find some answers in their running game this season.
Despite being a rookie, Lacy may be the favorite to become the starter. Green Bay was so desperate for a running back that they considered taking Lacy in the first round, and they were lucky that he was still available when they were making their second round selection. Lacy has a great combination of power of speed. He has the look and size of a power back, and is great at breaking tackles, but he also has surprising foot quickness and can be incredibly shifty. Lacy is perhaps best known for his patented spin move, which work wonders in college, even against SEC defenses, and the Packers are hoping it will translate to the NFL. Green Bay drafted Lacy with the hope that he would become their starter, and there should be little doubt that he is the most talented running back on their roster. The only thing left to do is for Lacy to go out on the field and produce, and prove that he should be Green bay’s starter this year.
Of course, with so many issues with their backfield heading into the offseason, the Packers also drafted Franklin as reinforcement. Franklin doesn’t have great size, so he’s likely to be a part-time change-of-pace back, but he does have the skills to play on every down. He’s fast and shifty, which means he fits the mold of a back up in the NFL, but he has the secondary skills to play an even larger role. Perhaps most importantly, Franklin has good receiving skills coming out of the backfield, which is something that Lacy doesn’t do well, and something that the Packers will look to utilize, which should guarantee him plenty of playing time as a rookie.
However promising Green Bay’s rookies may be, Green and Starks should not be counted out. For a team with such high aspirations, experience is at a premium at all positions. Although Green and Starks haven’t proven to be all that productive in the past, they should not be counted out of the running back competition, nor should Harris. Ultimately, the Packers hope they can get something substantial out of this group of five running back candidates. There appears to be enough talent to make that happen, but Green Bay will also need strong play from its offensive line, and make a commitment to running the ball and having a balanced offense. Until we see all those factors come together, we won’t know for sure if the Packers will have an improved running game in 2013, something they may need if they hope to be contenders in the NFC.