Bob McGinn is arguably the most respected writer of all those who cover the Packers. His research is normally impeccable. He’s an accomplished author, having written a fabulous book called, “The Ultimate Super Bowl Book.”
But he is wrong about James Starks. In a short “Notes” piece on Monday, McGinn states:
Rookie James Starks, a sensation against the Philadelphia Eagles, looked like just another running back Saturday night in the Green Bay Packers’ 48-21 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC divisional playoffs.
Starks carried 25 times and gained 66 yards, a paltry 2.6-yard average that paled in comparison to his 23 carries, 123 yards, 5.3 average six days earlier in Philadelphia.
I’m guessing Bob hadn’t re-watched the game again when he wrote this. Because if he had, he would have seen an offensive line whose run blocking could best be described as “sieve-like.”
Not to say the pass protection was any better, with Aaron Rodgers having to play the part of Houdini the great escape artist to lead the Packers to victory. But that’s a whole other article. We’re just talking about the run blocking here.
Starks gained 123 yards against the Eagles because their defensive line is undersized and weak enough to make the Packers’ run-blocking look good. Against a solid, and big defensive front like Atlanta’s it was a party in the Packers’ backfield.
Forget about getting any push, the Packers’ offensive line couldn’t even hold the line of scrimmage. The fact that Starks gained a few yards on some of these plays actually showed he was much more than “just another running back”. Here are some examples:
And these were just a few. The common theme is that you see plenty of penetration into the Packers’ backfield. I could show you plenty more, but neither one of us have that kind of time. Now I’m not saying that Starks’ play was magnificent, but I think he did about as well as any top running back would have done with that kind of blocking.
And give Starks credit for his post game comments of not being satisfied with his performance and for not throwing his offensive line under the bus:
“I’m a lot better than that,” Starks said. “My standards for myself are a lot higher. I’ve got to pick my legs up. Break more tackles. I’ve got to break the big one.” “That’s something I have to look at,” said Starks when asked if he missed any holes. “I think I could have done better.”
No James, you didn’t miss many holes. A few times there were no holes and you still found a way to make positive yardage. When the Packers managed to hold the line of scrimmage and give Starks time to find an alley, he did quite well, thank you. Here are a few examples that show what just a little bit of blocking will do:
In these examples, the Packers maintain the line of scrimmage (one minor exception in the first play, but the linebacker is allowed to just run himself out of the play). Starks has time to look for a seam, or bounce it outside if none exists.
So Bob, I have to respectfully disagree with your premise. I re-watched the entire game, focusing on Starks and Rodgers. I think Starks did better than Ryan Grant would have done with this kind of blocking. Grant has his own strengths, but making something out of nothing is not one of them. We haven’t seen Starks’ style of running in Green Bay for a while, now.
I like it.——————
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.