Will the Packers leave Eddie Lacy in the Toy Box?

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Is Eddie Lacy the odd man out on offense in 2014?

After the 2014 NFL Draft and the subsequent signing of undrafted free agents, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers must be salivating at the new toys given to them.

Like wide eyed children at Christmas, they most likely cannot wait to play with the shiny new Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis, Jeff Janis and Colt Lyerla.

On paper at least, the Green Bay passing attack looks as strong and as potent as ever. With all these new pass catchers at his disposal, McCarthy couldn’t forget last year’s “hot toy” running back Eddie Lacy could he?

Last season, even before the Packers drafted Lacy, McCarthy said the running game would be better and that the present media could write that in “big letters.”  McCarthy delivered on that promise, thanks to the outstanding play of Lacy, the 2013 offensive rookie of the year.

Since the team didn’t have Rodgers for basically half the season, the Packers really had no choice but to ride the legs of Lacy. Lacy ran for over 1,100 yards and was key in keeping the team in the NFC North race until Rodgers returned.

All offseason fans have been drooling at the prospect of a fully healthy Rodgers and Lacy in the backfield. But will McCarthy remember that? Under McCarthy,  albeit with less talented running backs than Lacy, the Packers have not been afraid to abandon the run at the first sign of trouble. With a porous defense,  Green Bay has often had to keep throwing due to a close game or when they have been behind.

The defense appears much improved (on paper anyway), but the fact remains the Packers remain a pass first team even with Lacy in the backfield.  While McCarthy has always preached balance on offense until last season, thanks to the absence of Rodgers, the team never really made a concrete commitment to the rushing game.

Green Bay still lives and dies on Rodgers’ right arm but they showed last year they can stay afloat with Lacy carrying the team, a remarkable feat for a rookie.

This offense will shatter records with both of them healthy and on the field at the same time. Stack the box against Lacy? Rodgers kills you with playaction. Planning on dime to stop the receivers? Watch Lacy take the ball into the secondary.

The Packers finally have a running back that is a good counterweight to Adrian Peterson,  Matt Forte and Reggie Bush.

Let’s just hope with all these shiny new toys in the passing game McCarthy brings Lacy out of the toy box too.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com.

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  • Enrico Caruso

    I believe McCarthy and company may have finally been convinced of the value of a real running game. I hope they are a little smarter about monitoring Lacy’s mileage, and the added weapons in 14-15 may allow that.

    On the other hand, if Rodgers audibles to “pass” on every play, who would blame him with that group of WR/TE. And if Finley is cleared and re-signed, I can’t even imagine what they might be able to do.

  • Big T

    Eddie is needed to pound the hell out of those linebackers. By the end of the game I am sure they are wincing when they come up to tackle him. Starks can pound too, just hope he stays healthy.

  • Brooklyn81

    40-60 run vs pass. Time of possession is important to help the defense and that’s where running the ball helps because it keeps the clock running. McCarthy will have some balanced game plans

    • Stroh

      I have no doubt Lacy will get his carries. I would be more concerned w him being over-utilized than under. Expect 17-20 carries a game. 40/60 run pass ratio sounds right to me.

    • marpag

      My gut reaction to your post was that 40% running was probably a bit too low. So just for kicks, I looked at the run/pass ratio of all NFL teams over the past three years. The results are hardly 100% conclusive – not by a long shot – but here are some stats.

      I divided the league into thirds according to their run percentage. Teams that ran the most ran an average of 49.8% of the time, and won an average of 8.2 games. Teams in the middle ran an average of 43.3% and won an average of 8.7 games. The teams that ran the least ran an average of 38.4%, and won an average of 6.9 games.

      In the past three years, teams that ran the ball 40% or less averaged 6.6 wins.

      Last year, the five teams that ran the least were ATL, CLE, DAL, MIA, NO (from lesser to greater). Not exactly a murderer’s row.

      30 teams were in the bottom third for rushing over the past 3 years, ten teams each year. Of these 30 teams, only 7 had winning seasons.

      In general, the teams that pass the most are consistent losers (with a few exceptions, like New Orleans).

      The winning percentages of teams that run the most are bogged down by teams like Minnesota, who can’t do anything EXCEPT run.

      In a way, it makes sense. Good teams have to be able to throw and rack up points, but they are also able to kill the clock with running plays at the end. Crappy teams have Matt Stafford winging it all over the field at the end because they need to play catch up. On the other hand, teams that run, run, run probably have crappy QBs and can’t score like the teams in the middle.

      So I guess if you want to win, run 43-45% of the time. Problem solved, huh?

      • Packett

        Good enough for me. Your logic makes sense when you analyze as 3 groups. Probably a more accurate analysis about run/pass ratios might have to factor out the teams with glaring deficiencies (bad qb, bad oline, etc) which necessitates skewed #s. Focus on top 16, and wonder what that would reveal. Perhaps a high pass ratio in that group would show a higher win correlation. I like your point; need for balance.

        • marpag

          A classic example was Denver. In 2011 Denver led the league in RUSHING attempts. Then they got Peyton Manning…

          They were middle of the pack in 2012, and way high towards the pass in 2013 (and yet managed to win 13 games).

          So yeah, there were more than a few “bracket busters” that didn’t really fit the mold. And when they didn’t fit the mold, you almost always knew why (eg “why does NO always pass a lot?”)

      • Nopainnogain

        not really sure the correlation equals causation. as you said, that stats are influenced by game situations. good teams are more likely to spend more time in the lead throughout the season, and once teams get the lead, they are more liable to run the ball to shorten the game. and the opposite is true for bad teams. regardless of what qualities caused them to be bad and fall into a deficit, once a team is behind, they are forced to throw more often to try and move the ball more quickly and take advantage of the fact that incompletions stop the clock. this would make it seem like run/pass ratio is more likely the result of success than the cause.

        • Archie

          Spoken like a real analyst. Good job.

  • Pete Kliman

    The offensive line needs a slight improvement and center is a concern. However,it could be a special season.

    • Razer

      Totally agree Pete. If we can improve the right side of the line and center, Lacy can be even more effective. It is truly amazing what he did last year behind our cobbled line and without a pass game.

  • Tmoneey

    Pretty sure that Lacy is going to be a major fixture in GB’s offense for the next few years, I don’t worry about him being abandoned but I do wish the coach would throw out that John Kuhn FB dive play on short yardage and give the ball to 27.

    • marpag

      Kuhn carried the ball a whopping 10 times during all of last season… TEN rushes is 16 regular season games. Seven of those 10 rushes went for first downs. One went for a touchdown. He averaged 3.8 per carry, which is all of ONE FOOT less per carry than Lacy.

      In the playoff game, he rushed twice and scored a touchdown.

      Can we please stop with the tired complaints about MM running the FB dive?

      • Stroh

        LMAO… No doubt.

      • Since ’61

        Marpag – Excellent points!!! I agree ith you. Why are people complaining about something which works 70% of the time and which is called about once every 2 games?
        Focused on the wrong issues, I guess. Execution not play calling is what matters. Go Pack! Thanks, Since ’61

        • Stroh

          But if you listen to the play calling guru’s on this site (of which there are NONE!) they’ll tell you that no matter any time Kuhn runs its a bad play call. LMAO

  • John Zoul

    A balanced offense is the way to go…
    Am surprised at the resigning of Kuhn…Essentially a blocker with the ‘speed’ of an offensive tackle and no moves…You mean to tell me they couldn’t find a FB out of college to replace him?

    • Pete Kliman

      Don’t forget his pass catching abilities,which are hard to find. I’m glad he’s back because he adds that extra dimension and also the all important hard working veteran presence.Not bad for the price and years of contract.

    • Stroh

      He’s as much a core ST player as he is a FB on offense. He’s a better blocker than most any NFL RB. Apparently tou missed the wk 17 game vs Chi.

    • KW

      John … I think the highest ranked (pure) FB in this draft was probably Jay Prosch out of Auburn and he went in round 6 / 211 OA to Houston. The guy is big and strong, but also stiff as a board when you watch him play. If that was the best the draft had to offer, then I think TT was right not to let Kuhn go and wait for a replacement. You have to remember that teams scout guys 2-3 years before they’re even eligible. They go to watch one guy in a game … see a young new guy who looks good … then they follow/keep and eye on them until they declare. I’d put money on the scouting staff writing-down RB TJ Yeldon’s name when they were scouting Lacey at Bama in 2012! ;-)

  • Mike Sherman

    Listing Lyerla instead of Rodgers at TE? One is a 3rd round pick and highly likely to make the team, the other an undrafted long shot. Anyways, of course Lacey and the running game are going to get their carries. MM used to run the ball just to run it and keep teams honest. The real question and what this article should be about, is what running backs make the team and how carries get split up. You know Starks wasn’t signed to sit out on Sundays. Franklin deserves a few carries a game to develop and so we can evaluate what we have in him. Does Harris make the team? If so, where does he for in? How many carries will Lacey get a game? How many should he get? These questions carry a lot more weight than whether the running game is used. It’s always has been, even when it sucked! Any good packers can knows that!

    • bleedsgreen

      Seriously. Our worry is more “which of our running backs will be running against us soon on a rival team?” rather than “will Lacy get the rock?”

      That said, the concern here isn’t unwarranted. It’s not crazy to imagine at least one loss (or a lost half, at least) with people screaming, “why’d he get away from the run????” It is possible. But my gut is saying….. no. This toy box is (except for the line, and every NFL team has to take a risk somewhere, with the cap) totally stocked in a way that McCarthy has been training for the past few years. His habits actually match quite well now with the personnel he’s being given. Big things are very, very possible.

  • Since ’61

    I think that there is little concern that Lacy and/or the running game will be under utilized. In 2013, the Packers running backs ran for 1900 yards on 407 attempts for a 4.7 yards per carry. Note these figures do not include the Packers QB rushing yards. Also, this was achieved without either starting OT and with Rodgers missing 8 games and the opponents knew that all we had was Lacy. With a healthy Rodgers, throwing to an improved receiver corps (thanks to the draft) and an improved OL with Bulaga back, the opportunities for the run game should be excellent. Obviously, depending on the opponent and the score of the game the run game will used differently. But if our defense improves, even a little bit, and we can play with and maintain leads in our games, the running game can control and even dominate some of our opponents. As usual, this all depends on the team staying healthy overall. Looking forward to 2014. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61

  • Matt Roeloffs

    What a dumb article. Eddie Lacy averaged MORE carries/game when Rodgers was IN. Man things must be really slow if all you guys can come up with is a ludicrous article just to stir the pot.

    • Pete Kliman

      Take it easy ,you should let annoying things just roll off your sleeve.

      • Since ’61

        Matt – it’s the dialogue that matters. Not every article is going to be on a fascinating topic for everyone, but thanks to the writers here we have a forum that gives us a chance to share our thoughts and comments, (if we choose to). If an article doesn’t interest me, I don’t comment and move on to tomorrow’s article. It’s not Kris’ or any writer’s fault that this is a slow time in the NFL year. Go Pack! Thanks, Since ’61

    • Stroh

      I have to say I completely agree w/ you. The whole point of the article is a little ludicrous IMO. Many other, better ways this article should have been presented.

    • KW

      Matt … that could be because he had ONE attempt in game 2 vs Redskins and went out for the next game also. His carries really didn’t change much from Rodgers to anyone else under center. Like an avg of 21 CPG. Although his receiving yards were higher with other QBs. Just sayin

  • tim

    The real storyline for the pack will not be its offense. It’s all about defense! Championships are won by defense. Manning and Denver set all kinds of offensive records but were man-handled by the hawks’ defense in the SB! For the pack to win they need a defense. Haven’t had a truly dominating defense since Reggie White and the boys almost 20 years ago.

    • Tmoneey

      Amen Tim!!!

    • Archie

      Haven’t had a good defense since Teddy boy started making our draft picks, that’s for damn sure. I sure hope Packer fans hold his and MM’s feet to the fire – no contract extensions for TT/MM unless we get big time improvement on defense. Don’t scapegoat Capers – MM gave him the job and refuses to fire him and TT gave him the players he is working with – responsibility lies with MM and TT. It’s their coaches and their players. 10 years later our defense still sucks!

  • Razer

    I am sure that a healthy and somewhat improved O-line will make our running game even better. I am sure that a full year of Rodgers will make the offense more potent. I am less sure that Mike McCarthy will blend these elements effectively. Despite the talent, MM doesn’t show much creativity in his playcalling. I fully expect a lot of run, run, pass until Rodgers decides to take things into his own hands. To me, the run game will be a creative playcalling issue.

  • aaronqb

    It is laughable to even suggest that Lacy will not play a major role in the offense this season. The only way Lacy does not play a major role in the offense is if he sustains a serious injury.

  • Mark

    In 2010 they allowed the fewest points in the NFC and second fewest in the league. It it hard to understand how that defense got so bad so fast. Hopefully they will return that this year and notch another SB win.

    • Stroh

      What’s so hard to understand? Lost 2 defensive playmakers to career ending injuries, Collins and Bishop. Lost another HOF defensive playmaker. And have been forced to fill that playmaking void w rookie draft picks. Its completely understandable when you put it all in context and don’t ignire facts.

      • Archie

        Yet in the same time period SEA and SF have drafted/developed incredible defenses when they both sucked in 2010. It’s all about draft and development, isn’t that what Teddy boy claims? Well then, by definition, GB is doing a poor job of drafting/developing defensive players. How many GMs would be happy with starting AJ Hawk in the middle of their defense for a decade? One, Teddy boy. And he’s just getting started, before he’s through he will have rewritten the defensive record books for futility. Our front 7 is almost all former R1 picks yet we stink. How can that be?!

        • Stroh

          Yes but the develop part takes time. Development doesn’t happen overnite! Especially in Capers scheme… Year 2 and more likely year 3 are when those rookies should becoming playmakers, just like Collins and Bishop who took till year 4 to become playmakers. Just cuz you drafted them doesn’t mean they are developed, it means they need development. Do you even know that Collins and Bishop didn’t do squat till year 4?

          Look at the defensive talent the Packers have coming up in the system. Perry, Worthy, Datone, Hayward, Boyd, Clinton-Dix.

          Hell even Raji moving back to NT (he never should have been asked to move to DE). Burnett w/ a decent running mate at Safety.

          How about if you give the players the chance to develop?! Instead of expecting them to be developed as soon as they put on a Packer jersey?!

  • Nopainnogain

    Must be a slow day…

  • jim

    I love Starks, and hope to see him make similar contributions this year. But, I would love to see the addition of another “pounder” at running back for the sake of taking some of the heat off Lacy and punishing opposing defenses. Might Lyerla be considered for this role? Big guy, speed, power. Rather than forgetting about Brandon Jacobs, I would love to see a restoration of him in a Packer uniform.

    • Stroh

      We have 2 RB that run w/ great power and 2 RB’s that run w/ speed and elusiveness. That’s about as perfect a balance as you could hope for and you still want more? Packers stable of RB and the diversity of their talents might be the envy of the NFL! But that’s not good enough for you?

  • mike

    i dont think anything changes . last year even with aaron down the offense was finally balanced and it was a top 3 offense. i look for franklin to fix his dropping problems he should be able to give lacy a bit of a break . we were lucky with starks last year i for one still not sold he can stay healthy

  • SpillitPickett

    I agree that the bigger issue is how to balance our stable of RBs. With Harris, Starks, and Franklin all battling for carries with their own styles of running. Should be interesting to see what MM decides to do

  • http://jersyal.com tim

    I also think the balance of carries among the backs will be interesting and a key to success. They’ve got players (providing Rodgers is healthy) to counter just about anything the opposing defense has to offer. More than talent, because they’re loaded with that, I think the key is imaginative play calling and aggressively attacking the defenses they’re facing. To a certain extent, I believe that’s also the key on defense – attacking rather than catching. To me, football is such a game of momentum, attitude and controlled emotion.

  • Archie

    TT’s 2011 Draft Grade

    GREEN BAY PACKERS (D)

    Second-round wideout Randall Cobb has been a huge hit, but the rest of the class has done little.

    First-round offensive tackle Derek Sherrod has played in just 12 games and is fighting for his career. Fourth-round cornerback Davon House and seventh-round tight end Ryan Taylor remain.

    But third-round running back Alex Green, fifth-round tight end D.J. Williams, sixth-rounders Caleb Schlauderaff (offensive lineman), D.J. Smith (linebacker) and Ricky Elmore (linebacker), and seventh-round defensive lineman Lawrence Guy contributed little.
    —————–
    We could of had M Lynch, R Sherman and the young TEs in both DEN and CLE. And probably the great OLB at KC. All after the 2nd round. But we didn’t.

    Still want TT to stay around another 10 years??? Kick him to the curb before he kills us. Remember, it’s not his W-L record, it’s AROD’s. Proof – look at last year when he was out – we played like dirt.

    • Big T

      Archie, how dare you say anything bad about the messiah himself TT. The sheeple on here will kick you off. Must keep drinking the TT malt liquor…

      • Archie

        It’s true, speaking the truth on this site is hazardous to your well being. I thought maybe if I repeated somebody else’s words it would go down smoother but guess not. Hard for the sheeple to face the fact their Messiah is like a blind dog in a meat market when it comes to sniffing out defensive talent. But hey, he got lucky on first ever Packer draft pick so what else matters. Funny thing is I bet most sheeple here were howling when he drafted AROD. I was cheering big-time! I hailed him as the anti-Favre and he has proven to be exactly that in EVERY sense of the word. At least with Dix and Adams, there is a floor under this draft class. R3 was out of left-field but you didn’t think you could go more than 2 picks in a row w/o TT going haywire did ya? I think the guy has hit on two defensive picks since the 2008 draft. I bet that has something to do with why our defense sucks. But lets extend him another 5 years as he’s only just getting started. Puke.

  • ken

    Kuhn is a superb blocker. Remember “THE BLOCK” he threw in the Bears game to give time for Rodgers to find Cobb for the division clinching touchdown? That’s why he was resigned, for his blocking, not running. Without Kuhn, I don’t think Packers win that game.

    • Ed Schoenfeld

      This, plus special teams, is Lacy’s true value and why he is in on 3rd down (and therfore why he is the guy with thye ball when the ‘best play’ for down and distance turns out to be a run.

      I recall seeing a comment by Mccarthy earlie this year that the challenge for the young backs was to become better in pass pro. Once Lacy has that down instinctively, I think we will see far less of Kuhn. I don’t know that this is the year that will happen.

      So the real question for the Packers is do they keep 4 rb plus Kuhn? And what does that mean for the TEs, where Ryan Taylor is really the only H-back type able to block well from the backfield and all the other guys except Perillo are bette receivers than Taylor?

      Lyerla is the wild card there, I think.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbZekQCSWgw Otis Appert

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  • 1stngoal

    I’m sure McCarthy will get plenty of work for Lacy this season. Having a great player like him in the lineup is only going to make it much harder for opposing defenses to defend against Aaron Rodgers and the passing game. I can’t wait to see what kind of impact Adams and possibly Lyerla have on the offense in their rookie seasons, should be fun to watch. Go Pack!

  • Tmoneey

    Lacy is in a pretty good spot here for his long term career. On a different team they might run him into the ground, in GB his touches should stay around where they were last year. I would like the offense to take advantage more of the check down throw but that doesn’t seem as big a part of McCarthy’s west coast offense as say a Mike Holmgren. But I do think Lacy could do a lot of damage catching short passes in space.

    • Stroh

      There’s a difference between a checkdown, which all offensive systems have and a screen pass. Checkdowns happen when all the other receivers are covered and you dump it off to a RB that helped block then released into a flat route or something. All teams use that, but ideally you have enough good downfield receivers that can get open so you don’t need to do a checkdown.

      Screen passes, which Holmgren used ALL the time is a called play. Holmgren used them so much cuz he didn’t have as many good downfield receivers so he had to call more screens to compensate and also due to the fact he was more of a close West Coast disciple to Walsh than McCarthy is.

      Personally, I would rather have more weapons downfield so we don’t have to do checkdowns or call screens so much, but that’s just me.

  • http://packer-madness.com Michael

    Please, oh please use Eddie. He has inspired us all. With Aaron throwing and Eddie running, we finally have a balanced offensive attack. We are starting to look good on defense, we are healthy. Looks like a great year ahead!!

  • Shavager

    C’MON Packers fans–you can’t JUDGE success for Packers by looking at other teams success or lack of it with run vs. pass. ABSOLUTE FACT: ESPN sports looked into Packers won/loss ratio and found Packers WIN 75% or more when the run/pass ratio is BALANCED, regardless of success running the ball, they had a far better winning percentage when balancing the number of runs vs. pass attempts. IF Packers’ offense passed the ball 70% or more vs. runs, they had a LOSING record at the time of the study. Imagine Lacy pounding defense, Starks gashing them for long runs in relief and then a 5 WR set with Nelson, Cobb, Adams, Boykin or Abbedaris AND speedy Janis lined up in no huddle drive-that’s a DC’s nightmare to defend.