Cory’s Corner: Eddie Lacy is one of three elite Packers

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Eddie Lacy is an elite Packer. Not Clay Matthews.
Eddie Lacy is an elite Packer. Not Clay Matthews.

I think we all know who the best and most important player on the Packers roster is.

The question is who else is up there? According to Pro Football Focus, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Sitton and Clay Matthews were placed into the elite category.

Rodgers? Obviously. We all saw how much he meant to this team when he missed seven games last year.

Sitton? Yes. The season opener at San Francisco was his worst game of the year with his whiffs on numerous run blocks. But after that, he turned into a rock and I will go so far as to say that with the patchwork of four quarterbacks that started for the Packers this past year, it was Sitton that got the Packers in the playoffs for the fifth straight year.

If the offensive line wants to get respect in a hurry, it needs to keep Rodgers’ jersey clean. Allowing 47 sacks a year from 2009-2012 is unacceptable. Sitton is a guy that not only turns into a beast on gameday but he can also galvanize the rest of the unit. People listen to him and he needs to lead them if this team is going to get a whisper of success.

Matthews? I just cannot see it. Is he a good player? Yes. But there are too many question marks with him. He’s a four-time Pro Bowler for a reason but the last time he played in at least 15 games was 2011 and he’s never started all 16 yet. Last April he became the highest-paid linebacker in the game and if he keeps ending up on the injured reserve, he will have to start collecting his paychecks with a ski mask.

I truly believe there’s one guy that’s missing from the elite equation. And that person is Eddie Lacy. I realize he has only played one season but his value to the offense is like having a Visa card: Priceless. A legitimate running element is something that nobody has seen in Green Bay since Ahman Green was plowing ahead for tough yards.

Teams will always scheme to stop Rodgers first. Lacy will feast on safeties cheating back, making his path to the second level that much easier. Lacy still racked up over 1,100 yards on the ground and that includes three games of less than 30. People that underestimate Lacy should do so with caution. He may look like Jerome Bettis but he can move better and is even more fearless.

I’ve said it before and I will continue to say that the running back position is dying. But I see Lacy turning into the Marshawn Lynch type of back. Which is perfect, because when Lacy hits his prime in four or five years, the Packers will need him even more when Rodgers begins his taper his pass attempts. He is thick enough to be a horse, quick enough to turn it upfield and versatile enough to catch passes.

The reason that it’s hard to place a Packers receiver in that elite category is because without Rodgers, I’m not sure how good any of them would be. Jordy Nelson has shown a knack for making the impossible catch, but would a different quarterback be able to put it that close? Randall Cobb can zoom past most defenders, but would another quarterback have an arm to hit him in stride?

And forget about the defensive side of the ball. The Packers haven’t had a dynamic defender since LeRoy Butler, a guy that changed the game with his 20½ sacks and 38 picks.

The Packers can win without the trio of Rodgers, Sitton and Matthews. But they will not win without the trio Rodgers, Sitton and Lacy — which is why those three are the most important players on this team.

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn

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  • http://allgbp.com duhawks

    I am with you on this. Clay is a good player not far from being a great player.He needs to step up and get a whole season under his belt. We are hurt as we get older and football players hurt too. But there are times when you must play with pain. Today’s players have too many investers depending on them so they will not push them back into playing too soon. Then maybe teams should all ply thier players by how they play, number of games and so for like the common Joe does.

    • Normthe1

      Fair call but maybe they’re managing the injury so that he can extend his playing career?

      • Big T

        They didn’t manage the thumb injury very well now did they.

  • D-Dawg

    Last part offended me, Nick Collins was an elite player.

    • Stroh

      NOt too mentions Charles Woodson! Not just an elite player, but a leader and Defensive Player of the Year! How do you not include them? Sheesh…

    • bcs1201

      What about Reggie White? Gotta gives props to the Minister of Defense!

  • Franklin D. Romanowski

    I think that Charles Woodson was one of the most dynamic players the Packers have ever had. I agree with D-Dawg, Nick Collins was dynamic as well.

    • BradHTX

      You beat me to it. How can you possibly say the Packers haven’t had an elite player on defense since Butler and forget Woodson? I can see eliminating Collins based on his injury-shortened career, though the idea is elite player, not elite career.

      A thing I hate about the internet is that you can no longer call and article “a waste of ink and paper.” Now it’s just a waste of my time, I guess.

  • http://allpackers.com Nick Perry

    I agree with your comments on Lacy and think he’s only scratched the surface, but I still think Matthews belongs exactly where he is, in the “Elite Category”. In 2010 he should have won the DPOY award losing a close vote to Polamalu. Matthews has never really had a partner on the other side so he’s usually doubled, even tripled. In most “Great” 3-4 defenses you have 2 OLB that can rush the QB. It seemed last year when Perry finally seemed to get it going, he broke a bone in his foot.

    Granted he’s missed games, 2012 with the hamstring and last year with the thumb. He broke the thumb sacking the QB, and reinjured in sacking Big Ben. In SB 45 he made one of the best plays by a defensive player I’ve seen. “Spill it Pickett, spill it” and there was Mendenhall, looking like he had alligator arms trying to grab a fumbled ball in the air caused by Matthews.

    This year, with Peppers and a healthy Perry, Neal, and Jones, Matthews will dominate. Throw in the ever improving Mike Daniels and this pass rush will be damn scary.

  • mike

    minster ??? (reggie)

    • Ed Schoenfeld

      Left GB before Butler retired.

      But Woodson, Collins, and, tes, Matthews qualify too.

  • ChrisV

    I have to disagree about Matthews. The other team has to alter their offense to account for him any time he is in the game. You only do that for an elite player. No OC in the league stayed awake all night last season trying to figure out how to contain Morgan Burnett, for instance.

    • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

      The other team has to alter their plans around Matthews (when he’s there) because he is the most “scary” threat on our below average to poor D – at least since 2011.

      CM3 IS a blue chip player. When he’s out there. He’s too injury prone to effectively be considered an annual All-Pro.

      Here’s hoping that Shields, Daniels, D. Jones, Raji, Perry, Neal, Burnett and HHCD step up this year.

      • Tarynfor12

        “The other team has to alter their plans”….

        I’m pretty sure ‘every team’ has one of these guys that the opponent plans for..a very overuse description..much like ‘elite’.

        Point is,every team needs to know where the others best player is,it doesn’t mean he is automatically elite.

        PS.I think ‘alter’ is a bit strong,perhaps,adjust is more apt.

  • Big T

    If Matthews had the durability of Hawk I would then call him elite. Don’t get me wrong, Matthews is awesome. How can you call him elite when he isn’t on the field. Seems like each year he plays fewer games. If Matthews and Hawk could have a child together that would be an elite player…

    • DC Packer

      with elite hair

  • Dobber

    “But I see Lacy turning into the Marshawn Lynch type of back. Which is perfect, because when Lacy hits his prime in four or five years, the Packers will need him even more when Rodgers begins his taper his pass attempts.”

    I hope you’re right and that Lacy is able to play with longevity. Remember that running backs, and backs that take a lot of contact (like Lacy), tend to have short shelf lives. If Lacy is truly at his peak in 4-5 years, then the Packers really do have a find.

    • Stroh

      RB are in their peak years from yr 2 thru yr 6-8. RB don’t hit their peak at age 27 or so, they are nearing the end of their run as elite. I agree Lacy is an elite player, or at least very close to it, but RB is generally about the easiest positions to enter the league and dominate immediately. The learning curve is not very large or steep.

      Lacy is in the PRIME of his career now, not in 4 or 5 years. In 5 years he’ll be on starting the slide down. Ahman Green had his last 1000 yd season at about 28 yrs old. From ages 22 thru 27 yrs old he was among the best in the NFL. RB don’t age well, they start to breakdown at age 28 or so.

      Lacy is in his Prime now!

  • Big T

    Lacy is going to beat down defenses like red headed step children…

  • Archie

    (1) Anyone that doesn’t see CMIII’s greatness doesn’t have a clue.

    (2) Lacy has done what he has done for only one year. Lacy usually runs against 7 men in the box except when AROD was out last year and he showed he could still run against the 8th man. Don’t get me wrong, I like Lacy a lot but to put him ahead of CMIII at this point is misguided.

    Packer offense looks reloaded for another big year in 2014. It’s all about the defense. Offenses in the division will be even better this year and the non-divisional schedule looks tougher. I expect the secondary to play better. Dix, Hyde, Hayward etc. should ensure that. But the front 7 still concerns. I’m not sold on Peppers being a difference maker in the twilight of his career. Hawk & Jones figure to start at ILB again. Neal & Perry are injury plagued converts at OLB. Raji is a bust. Worthy is another bust. Is Jones yet another DL bust? Looked that way last year. Daniels is an overachiever who is short but productive. The rest are question marks with low ceilings and low floors. The only way this defense has a big year is if CMIII has a big year and somebody not named CMIII emerges as a major pass rushing force. Nick Perry is a one trick pony. I just don’t see anyone else on this front 7 emerging as the man. As a group they may be better than last year (couldn’t be worse) but as far as moving into the top 10 or even 15, I just don’t see it.

    • Big T

      I think the Peppers acquisition is like putting a band-aid on a nearly severed appendage.

  • Mike Sherman

    DPOY – Woodson, is not an elite defender? Butler never won DPOY. Come on, spend 2 min thinking about top players. You could also make a case for the rapist- Sharper, KGB and Kampman. Although I think only KGB would mmake it off that list.

  • marpag

    First, arguing about who is “elite” without defining (or even being able to define) what “elite” actually means is just kind of silly to me. Next, can we argue about who are the “shutdown corners” are? Then we can argue about which WRs are “gamechangers.” Then we can argue about which QBs are “franchise” QBs. OK, it’s just kind of a pet peeve of mine.

    In my mind, Matthews certainly has to rank higher than Lacy. Compared to other RBs, Lacy ranked 8th in rushing yards. That’s good, but it barely makes it into the top quartile in a 32 team league. His other stats are far less impressive. He’s tied for 24th in yards per carry at 4.1 (with two others). His paltry 3 carries of longer than 20 yards is tied with virtually every backup RB for 54th place on the list.

    Don’t get me wrong, Lacy is a breath of fresh air in GB, and his presence has changed the way the offense can play. But that doesn’t really mean that he’s an extraordinary player. It could just as easily mean that all of the Packer running backs before him really, really sucked.

    IMO, Matthews’ injury history is always badly overblown. In the regular season, he has averaged 14 games per year. He only missed 2 games in his first three years. Granted, his last two seasons he missed 4 and 5 games, but people act like Matthews never takes the field.

    And Matthews has achieved his success with far, far, far less help on defense than Lacy has on offense.

    Also, “…it was Sitton that got the Packers in the playoffs for the fifth straight year”? I agree that Sitton is a top notch guard, but this statement seems a bit over the top. Frankly, the whole article seems to be a bit over the top, written more for effect than for the actual facts.

    • Ed Schoenfeld

      FWIW the PFF article rates Lacy along with Nelsin as ‘Very Good”, with Aaron, Sitton and CMIII as ‘elite’. It seems to me that Cory didn’t make clear in his post that he is disagreeing with the PFF article.

      Now there is a lot to disagree with in the PFF article but I think arguing that Lacy is the 3rd elite player instead of Matthews is a little silly. “Elite’ is described in the article as a measure of talent at playing the position. I don’t see Matthews lacking in elite talent in any way, and to think that the Packers could ‘win’ (whatever that means in context — I take it as intended to reflect chances for a deep playoff run) without at least one elite and a few very good talent level players on defense is misguided.

      The last sentence should read: The Packers will not win in the post season without Rodgers, Lacy, an improved OL spearheaded by Sitton, and an improved defense including CMIII, a better overall rush, and better secondary play.

      • Ed Schoenfeld

        Reread, I take back the part about Cory not making it clear he disagreed with the Pff article.

    • Stroh

      “Frankly, the whole article seems to be a bit over the top, written more for effect than for the actual facts.”

      Couldn’t agree more… As usual for him.

    • Oppy

      Missed games are not the whole story, though.

      Each year, Matthews has had games he plays in, however, at a reduced snap count or clearly limited by his injury (usually the hamstring).

      Those types of performances don’t show up in the “games started” or “Games played” stats, but are real none the less.

      As far as being “Elite”, yeah, he’s one of the best LBs in the league. No question- regardless of PT. In fact, when you look at his career numbers, it’s pretty darn impressive thinking he HAS been so banged up over his career, and still manages to average 10 sacks a season, etc etc.

  • Tarynfor12

    The meaning and the use of the word ‘Elite’ isn’t what it used to be and this article proves it especially if its talking as a League ranking as opposed to a Packer only ranking.

    Even Lacy via one year has not erased Nelson after his many and its a joke to do so.Will/can Lacy be ‘Elite’ on both lists,sure,but he isn’t yet and discarding Nelson to do so now,makes it foolish.

    We have,at this moment,one truly ‘Elite’rated player regardless of the type of list,and that is Rodgers.No one else has done enough consistently to warrant such status League wide,but a different case,if for Packers only.

    • Razer

      I agree with this assessment. Like Lacy, Matthews had a great rookie season but has had mixed result since due to injury and teams preparing for him. Lacy will need to prove that he can keep moving his game forward as teams scheme for him and the toll is taken. No question about Rodgers, he has brought it for the last years despite an O-line that isn’t quite formed yet.

      On a good note, all these components are pointed up. Rodgers is healthy and has a run game. Matthews will be healthy and he has some added pieces on defense. Lacy will have a better O-line and Rodgers to help him in year two. Your premise of three elite players may come true by the of 2014 – just not yet.

  • NYPACKER

    I don’t see it. Lacy exceeded my expectations, however he had the majority of his big games vs. a “light box”. James Starks really had superior pure stats than Lacy; https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2014/04/17/sig-stats-elusive-rating/ In addition Lacy must prove he can stay healthy given his running style.

  • http://Yahoo.com Woody

    Thank you for mentioning one of the true all time great Packers in Leroy Butler, the inventor of the “Lambeau Leap”.

  • Two Bears, One Cup

    Lacy has never played a full season, either. . . .

  • http://grizzlymitch@bresnan.net grizzlymitch

    Sorry Pal, Charles Woodson was an elite player. I agree with your opinion of Mathews.

  • funcrusher

    Referring to Matthews: “…there are too many question marks with him.”

    Other than staying healthy, what sort of questions are there? He’s still a beast of a pass rusher and great against the run. There aren’t any holes in his game that I can think of.

    “But they will not win without trio Rodgers, Sitton and Lacy.”

    I like Sitton as much as the next guy does, but to say he’s a more important player than Matthews is just insanity. A great guard will never be more important than a great pass rusher.

    Plus, the Packers issues the past three seasons has been their defense, so to say their three most important players are all on offense, makes no sense. Their offense is fine and will remain fine with Rodgers, even if Lacy and Sitton are out. The defense NEEDS Matthews.

    • funcrusher

      FOXSports is currently doing a countdown of the 25 most important players to the Packers success in 2014. Coincidentally, Josh Sitton made the list today…at number 21.

      • Stroh

        Yes and it mentioned the same thing that funcrusher just did. He is only an OG, so his impact it fairly limited, not matter how good of an OG he is. Otherwise he would be MUCH higher than 21.

    • packett

      I think you might be missing the point of the article. He’s saying that if you were to pick 3 players that were most key to a win, it would be Rodgers,Sitton and Lacy (not Matthews). Without all 3, GB would probably not win the game. I think Matthews on D has bigger impact than Sitton on O. But its close, and I can’t dispute your assertion.

      • funcrusher

        While I respect your comment, the last sentence of the article states that Rodgers, Sitton and Lacy are the three most important players on the team.

        So, I don’t think my comments miss the point at all.

  • Big T

    Got a question? Would Marshall Newhouse be considered Elite??

  • aaronqb

    Elite Packer players (whatever elite means):
    Aaron Rodgers
    Josh Sitton
    Clay Matthews (his problem is health)
    Julius Peppers (possibly)
    Eddie Lacy

    On the cusp:
    Sam Shields
    Jordy Nelson
    Randall Cobb

    Elite defenders from past 20 years:
    Charles Woodson
    Nick Collins
    Reggie White
    Leroy Butler

    • Oppy

      Jordy Nelson really should be considered elite, regardless of his numbers.

      The man makes amazing catches in clutch situations so frequently he makes it seem passe’.

  • brian

    Cory is the best writer at this site for getting people fired up. He is like a poor mans Bob McGinn. Not trying to be negative or anything just making an observation.

  • Since ’61

    I have no problem considering Rodgers and Sitton as elite players. Lacy, I hope and expect will get there but I am not sure that he can be considered elite after 1 season, albeit a great season. As for Matthews, he is not elite for me. Why? For 3 reasons, first he runs himself out of a lot of plays, 2. I have yet to see him take over a game and dominate an opponent, like Reggie White or Ray Nitschke used to do. This is especially true in a big game. 3. I have yet to see him take a consistent leadership role on this team like, Woodsen, Collins, Butler, White or Nitschke did. Yes, he makes some plays and applies some pressure but he does not dominate. Now I realize that this is partially because he does not have a lot of help on the current edition of the Packers defense. We’ll see what 2014 brings for Matthews and the entire Packers D. We need Matthews and he is a very good player, but I am not sure that he is an elite player, yet. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61

  • Oppy

    There’s no way Eddie Lacy is an elite running back based on his rookie campaign.

    It was a great rookie season, it was a very solid season for a pro RB.

    But it was not anywhere close to “Elite”, IMO.

    It wasn’t AP.
    It wasn’t Barry.
    It wasn’t even Ahman Green.

    It was, however, a great start to what could be a very promising career.

    I think Green Bay has lacked a good running game for so long that it just felt like and elite performance in comparison.

    • Stroh

      Lacy’s rookie year is remarkably similar to Ahman’s 1st season in GB.

      Lacy 1178, 4.1 yd/carry, 11 TD’s.
      Green 1175, 4.5 yd/carry, 10 TD’s.

      Lacy’s yd/carry suffered while Rodgers was out or it would have been in the 4.3 or 4.4 range.

      Where they differed was Ahman had 73 rec to Lacy’s 35. However Ahman had 4 lost fumbles and Lacy only 1 fumble. So that offsets the reception difference somewhat.

      I expect a very similar career path for Lacy as Green had, but I don’t see Lacy having as many big TD runs and his yd/carry will be slightly lower. It’s highly unlikely Lacy has anything approaching Green’s Epic ’03 campaign w/ 1883 yds and 20 TD’s tho.

      Again Ahman’s long TD production is offset somewhat by his fumbles tho.

      There running style’s are really very similar except for Ahman’s great speed. Both are/were very powerful, physical RB that initiate contact. Lacy is a good receiver, Ahman was an excellent receiver, both are very good blockers too.

  • Big T

    Anyone on here that doesn’t think that Lacy is elite must tackle him coming with a full head of steam. After that trauma if you can still say he isn’t elite then I will listen.

    • Tarynfor12

      Any RB coming at the average fan with a full head of steam will likely inflict a level of trauma..that’s why they play and you don’t…and hitting a fan like that isn’t on the requirements list to be called ‘elite’.

  • Wagszilla

    This is the sort of article I’d expect from Florio at PFT but it’s unbecoming of this fine site.

    • Stroh

      Thank you! Couldn’t agree more.