What Can We Expect From Eddie Lacy In Year 2?

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Eddie Lacy went from a too fat, too hyped running back out of Alabama to the 2013 NFL Rookie of the year (which I predicted right after he was drafted).  However, Lacy’s meteoric rise to the best football player from the 2013 NFL draft was probably not as the Packers predicted; with the injury to Aaron Rodgers collarbone the Packers morphed into a conservative, ball control offense lead by pounding Lacy behind Josh Sitton, TJ Land and Evan Dietrich-Smith.  Naturally as Lacy proved to be the most effective weapon the Packers had left, he got more carries, which lead to more yards, more touchdowns and naturally more accolades.  But with the return of Rodgers with a fully healed collarbone, what can the Packers expect from Lacy?

First off the disappointing news; successful rookie running backs don’t do as well on their second season.  According to statistics pulled from Rotoworld, of running backs who gained at least 600 yards during their rookie season in the last 10 years:

  1. 66% of running backs saw a decrease in their rushing production in year 2
  2. 72% of running backs who rushed for at least 7 or more touchdowns saw a decrease in their scoring in year 2
  3. 75% of running backs who rushed for at least 1,000 yards saw a decrease in their production in year 2

As the article states, there is really no concrete reason why running backs tend to decline going into their 2nd years; one possibility is that teams have a full year’s worth of film to watch and thus are able to properly analyze what types of plays, holes or cuts a running back typically executes and can plan accordingly.  Another possibility is that while running backs aren’t typically over utilized their rookie year, high drafted runners like Lacy already come into the league with a lot of tread off their tires; it’s quite well known that running backs have one of the shortest shelf lives of any position in the NFL and it’s possible that a rookie running back is already at his peak by the time he enters the NFL.  There’s also the increase responsibility of being “veteran” player; rookie running backs (as well as all rookies for that matter) are often given more simple assignments and only asked to do things they are already comfortable doing.  With another offseason, 2nd year running backs are expected to fully know the offense, which for a running back includes protecting the quarterback, running a more diverse route tree, etc.  With more things to think about and being put in more foreign situations likely results in a dip in production as well.

There are somethings that Lacy does have going for him that might help him keep his previous production or even increase it:

  1. Lacy was out injured essentially 3 games; if you project his 2013 season as a full 16 games you come up with 350 carries, 1449 yards and 13 touchdowns
  2. Lacy is likely to see less stacked boxes with Aaron Rodgers back in the fold.  According to ProFootballFocus, Lacy trended downwards in terms of grading from week 12 onwards likely due to the fact teams knew the offense was focused on Lacy
  3. More importantly with a healthy Aaron Rodgers, Lacy is likely going to be running out the clock with the lead; which is typically where running backs gain their statistics, especially a running back like Lacy who does best with a high volume of carries.

Overall, I think that Lacy will have lower numbers than his rookie year, but that necessarily isn’t a bad thing.  In reality Lacy is not the focal point of the Packers offense, Aaron Rodgers and the passing game is.  Mike McCarthy is famous for his “quantity not quality” approach to the running game where he see’s running the football a necessary evil to producing a strong passing attack.  While the addition of a runner of Lacy’s caliber might sway his opinions somewhat, there’s no denying that McCarthy and Rodgers are disciples of passing the ball and I don’t think that would change even if Adrian Peterson was on the roster.  Finally Lacy’s running style is less about yardage and more about yards per carry; if Lacy can maintain a healthy 3.5 YPC, keep the offense in good down and distance, make the play action fake something that teams actually have to think about and get the occasional tough 3rd and short I think the Packers would be happy even with a lot less production.  Hell, it might even extend his career.

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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  • Enrico Caruso

    Barring injury, OL looks more solid, or at least more experienced. The WR and maybe TE will be even better, if that’s possible. The QB is healthy, and if he’s not, the backup (Tolzien…sorry Matt Flynn) will be much better. We have an embarrassment of riches at RB. In short, the GBP will hopefully not NEED Lacy to do what he did last year. His numbers will be down, but I don’t think that will be because he’s less effective. If it goes to plan, he’s part of a balanced and scary offense.

  • Stroh

    I don’t see lower numbers for Lacy in his 2nd season. I also don’t see a big jump in production either. Thinking he gains 1250 yds, has a slightly higher yd/carry average and slightly lower carries/game. With Rodgers at QB, Lacy faces fewer stacked boxes, increasing his yd/carry, but w/ the stable of RB’s the Packers have Lacy might only get 15-17 carries per game.

    • Stroh

      Oh and I’m thinking about same TD production, maybe slightly higher

    • Thomas Hobbes

      So basically you think he’s just going to be more efficient overall. I don’t think he’s going to be able to increase his production in every category all at once, he also doesn’t fit the style of running where he’s going to pull off big YPC. Also the history seems to point that he’s in for a decrease.

      • Stroh

        History doesn’t suggest anything. Only if you read into history and try to apply it to the future.

        Lacy will be more efficient. No doubt about it… Most of his games played last year were when Rodgers was out. During those games he got more carries and faced 8 or 9 in the box. He isn’t a breakaway runner, but facing 7 in the box will allow him to average a higher per carry. That’s common sense… Having a healthy Rodgers obviously makes not only Lacy but the entire offense more efficient. Having Rodgers and a very deep stable of RB is bound to cut Lacy’s carries slightly. That to makes a lot of sense.

        History only applies if ALL other factors remain the same. Rodgers injury last year is a HUGE factor in offensive efficiency. You do understand that right?

        In this case history don’t mean squat!

        • Oppy

          Stroh,

          You can clearly contribute to the conversation, but why do you always have to be such a condescending prick to people?

          You really need to learn how to interact with people in a respectful manner.

          • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

            Oppy,

            This is why I am abstaining from reading Stroh’s posts for all of June. He is an intelligent guy, but anytime someone disagrees with him…. he turns into a grade A jerk.

        • packett

          People who analyze history, still draw valid lessons, and apply to future even if many factors are different. History never is the same as future; but things can be learned for those inclined to learn. Hobbes tried to do just that, and kept me engaged enough. Thanks Hobbes.

          • Stroh

            I never said you can’t learn from it. But in this case there is a major factor (Rodgers injury) that makes drawing conclusions or making projections from it, useless.

            • packett

              History doesn’t mean squat? Even with the injury, you can still draw lots of analysis, and far from useless. Hobbes attempted to extract what is possible and project into future. Its subject for debate, but far from “squat”. We know what squat refers to.

              • Stroh

                Not in this case. Since… You know Rodgers injury was a huge factor. You don’t think Lacy will be much more efficient facing 7 in the box vs the 8 or even 9 he faced most of last season w/ Rodgers out?

  • Since ’61

    I agree with Stroh. I don’t see a significant drop in Lacy’s production in his 2nd year. Not only will he be used to pick up 1st downs and run out the clock, but he will used to keep the defense honest and slow the pash rush down against Rodgers. Teams will be ready for Lacy this season, and if so we can come at them with Starks, Harris and Franklin. If this offense stays healthy, they will be difficult to stop. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Unfortunately picking up first downs and running out the clock will likely decrease his efficiency. Defenses know when offenses are killing the clock and will stack boxes, also running backs aren’t trying to gain huge chunks of yards they are more trying to pick up 3-4 yards only.

  • Katsuya

    I see Lacy’s production dropping tremendously in year 2, from 1178 yards rushing to 1177. :)
    Honestly though, I would like to see MM cut down his carries a little to save his legs for the playoffs. Lacy tended to fade as games progressed last year when he got 20+ carries. There were times last year when Starks looked more productive than Lacy, yet MM didn’t go with the hot hand. A better rotation will result in better production IMO.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Lacy was used a ton last year, especially when you consider he was out for essentially 3 games. He would have hit the “350” mark, which is typically when you see running backs start to break down in the short and long term. I think the Packers have to scale down his number of carries and that will likely effect his production as well.

      • Stroh

        Lacy doesn’t have a lot of mileage on him. In college he had ALOT less milage than Montee Ball had. Lacy only started one year and had about 1/2 the carries Ball had in that year.

        I think the Packers will scale back on his carries a bit. Probably 15-17 per game. They will have a healthy Rodgers and have a deep stable of RB to get touches to as well.

        Its not like Lacy is in danger of being overused at this stage of his career. Until last year he was pretty much underused. So he has a lot of mileage left in him.

    • funcrusher

      Starks is definitely faster than lacy, but he also had the luxury of coming into the game after Lacy had battered the defense. That makes it a lot easier.

  • BRinMilwaukee

    Props on the Rookie of the Year prediction. I think having AR for a full year will really make the Packers and Lacy forces to be reckoned with.

  • Bedrock

    I’d agree that his production would go down with teams having more game tape except… How does more game tape on Lacy show anything to prevent him from falling forward and breaking arm tackles? He is and was a downhill runner that will break arm tackles and punish the defense. It will NOT be because of a sophomore slump or pressure or ability that cause a decrease in production. It will only be due to Rodgers efficiency and the backups like Starks, Harris, Franklin (and/or darkhorse Neal) taking carries from him.

  • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

    I’d like to see the same numbers with less carries.

  • LyerlaStoleMyBike

    Definitely less yards given that Rodgers will be back and Starks/Harris/Franklin(?) will be getting their share of carries. All that matters is he keeps the TDs and short yardage first down conversions up!

  • GBPDAN

    So Franklin May Have A Career Ending Neck injury. Unbelievable. TT just can’t seem to get away from rostering injured players. And what’s up with Perry?

    • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

      I’m at the point with Perry that we were all at with Neal last year: Any contribution from him is a bonus. The guy is playing out of position and has been the definition of injury-prone. Ugh. He should have gone to a 43 team and Capers hasn’t been flexible enough with his skill set to use him properly. Ugh.

      Regarding Franklin – Wow. GB just can’t catch a break injury wise. Why??????

      The guy has a TON of promise.

      • Oppy

        As has been mentioned by others, 9 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles in the two games before his injury is pretty good for a fella who is playing out of position.

        Perry is fine at OLB. His health is the issue, not his playing position.

        • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

          I hope you are right Oppy. Dude hasn’t looked good in space at all. Ever.

        • Stroh

          Perry was really good those games. A lot of it had to do w playing ROLB. Its pretty clear he’s a different player on the Right side. They need to keep him there somehow to get the most out of him.

          • Oppy

            Week 5 vs. the Lions was Perry’s best game, 5 tackles, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble. He played his regular position nearly the entire game, Matthews wasn’t hurt until the last snap of the 4th quarter, and Mike Neal took most of the snaps in place of Clay that day.

            • Stroh

              Sorry to have to correct you but…

              http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2013100602/2013/REG5/lions@packers?icampaign=GC_schedule_rr#menu=drivechart&tab=analyze

              (8:12 3rd qtr) (Shotgun) 9-M.Stafford sacked at DET 35 for -7 yards (53-N.Perry). The highlite associated w/ the sack is him beating Reiff the LT while Perry is lined up at ROLB.

              The strip sack was also against Reiff while rushing from ROLB.

              (2:24 4th qtr) (No Huddle, Shotgun) 9-M.Stafford sacked at GB 43 for -9 yards (53-N.Perry). FUMBLES (53-N.Perry), recovered by DET-71-R.Reiff at GB 45. 71-R.Reiff to GB 45 for no gain (53-N.Perry).

              The following week against Balt is the same thing. Perry cleanly beats the LT for the strip sack on Flacco.

              (:12) (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco sacked at BAL 33 for -1 yards (53-N.Perry). FUMBLES (53-N.Perry), RECOVERED by GB-95-D.Jones at BAL 33. 95-D.Jones to BAL 13 for 20 yards (66-G.Gradkowski).

              Parts of 2 games. 3 sacks, 2 ff all while playing ROLB.

              Even from his college film the vast majority of his sacks came rushing from the Right side.

              Perry’s not out of position at OLB, he’s out of position at LOLB. The Packers MUST find a way to keep Perry at ROLB to take advantage of him. To wit, Matthews best sack season came in ’10 while playing the majority of his snaps at LOLB.

              To get the most out of both Perry and Matthews they need to put Matthews at LOLB and Perry at ROLB.

              • Stroh

                The link takes you to the box score. You have to click on the play by play tab and find the plays. Both the sacks vs Det have highlites w/ the particular play showing Perry rushing from ROLB vs Riley Reiff.

              • Oppy

                I stand corrected, Stroh. You are absolutely right.

                Thank you for responding in a respectful manner. It is appreciated.

                also, even though it doesn’t matter much since I was incorrect, I typo’d “last play of 4th quarter”, which should have read “3rd”.

  • GBPDAN

    I agree on Perry, anything the Packers can get out of him is a bonus. I guess it’s the foot injuryfrom last year that’s has him still out. It’s troublesome that it hasn’t healed yet. Not a good sign. The Franklin neck injury is depressing. But, as long as Lacey, Starks and Harris can stay healthy, we are strong at RB

    • Oppy

      I’m a huge fan of Dujuan Harris paired with Eddy Lacy with a sprinkling of Starks towards the late 3rd/4th quarter. So much so that since before the draft, I was already trying to figure out what the Packers would do with Franklin. I just don’t think they could have kept him on the roster even if he was healthy.

      • funcrusher

        I think you need to rewatch the Cincinnati game from last year. Franklin averaged 7.9 yards/carry against a top notch defense. He’s also our fastest back and proved he can run between the tackles.

        To say he wouldn’t make the roster this year is pure blasphemy!!!

        • Stroh

          I think Franklin makes the roster, I just don’t see a role for him. Lacy and Starks will get almost all the carries. Harris would be next on the depth chart and probably on returns. Lacy or Kuhn on pass downs. I don’t see anywhere Franklin fits except some ST.

        • Oppy

          Franklin had a good game, indeed.

          He also put up some really bad carries on film as well.

          He was young, and probably very talented. I just happen to like the idea of two bruising backs slamming a defense for three quarters, keeping each other fresh, and letting a completely rested change of pace back like Starks take advantage of the tired defenders in the 4th.

          Very sad to see Franklin’s career is over. Wish him the best of luck.

          • funcrusher

            We can definitely agree on your last sentence. It’s very sad situation. Hopefully he can fulfill his life w/o football.

  • Chad Lundberg

    Why the unflattering picture?

    • Stroh

      Was wondering that too. Not like there aren’t more, better photos of him now.

  • Big T

    Lacy bulls through the defense like a bowling ball knocking over pins. Franklin jukes and jives his way through the defense leaving them tackling air. I love this tandem.

  • Archie

    It only took TT and MM nine years to smarten up and realize they needed a running game. First cam Starks, then came a Super Bowl win. Then Starks was injury riddled and we had no run game again. Then we got Harris and hope was alive. Then we got Lacy and a healthy Starks and thinks picked up. Now we have all three healthy. I see no reason for the run game to lose steam. In fact, I think it will be even better in 2014. Does that mean Lacy improves on his numbers? Not necessarily. All that matters is that everyone stays healthy and productive. I’m looking forward to 2014. Perry strikes me as an elephant type player. Maybe we will play with two elephants at the same time. Another name for elephant = PACKaderm. Getting Neal, Perry, Peppers and CMIII on the field at the same time would be a good thing. Throw in some Daniels and Jones and maybe some Lattimore and you have a potentially hellacious front 7. Were the Pack’s defense to improve into a top 10 defense, what a season it would be. Time will tell. If this defense fails again, what do you do? Blow it up? Can the GM, HC and all the DCs? And if the reverse? All get extensions and raises?

    • Big T

      9 years is pretty quick for tweedle dee and tweedle dum

    • Stroh

      They were smart enough to provide a SB title in GB just 3 yrs ago. Makes you sound kinda like the dumb one!

      • Big T

        Stroh, smart and lucky are two different things buddy. If they were smart they would have 3 rings right now…

        • Stroh

          So you don’t think Collins career ending injury was a HUGE factor in the Defenses decline. Or Tramon’s severe nerve damage in his shoulder, or Bishop’s career ending injury or Woodson’s broken collar bone…

          Too bad you don’t know anything about football, injuries, training etc… You just act like you do! Please tell me how smart would have made the difference for those all those unexpected and career altering injuries!

  • Ed Schoenfeld

    It’s interesting how fast some poeple forget Ryan Grant in 2007.

  • Nopainnogain

    I’m not really sure that we can make much of those percentages. If you just look at cumulative stats (which don’t give a good picture), there is alot of runningback variability in general from year to year. For all we know, those percentages for consecutive years might be the same for all rb’s, and not just rookies. Rb’s absorb more punishment than most other positions, so I would guess that they rarely go long enough stretches of time without injury to pile up consecutive seasons with high cumulative stats. Yards per carry would probably be more consistent. The few backs that do repeat their cumulative success are more the exception than the rule. The other problem with the percentages is that all they say is that there is a cumulative decrease. Is it a decrease of 1 yard or 500 yards? That would make a difference in the significance of the statistic.

  • packett

    Rb’s absorb more punishment than most other positions, so I would guess that they rarely go long enough stretches of time

    I see variations of this stated as if it is fact. Pardon my naivete, but is it true? While RBs are in lots of traffic, maybe get gang tackled, I wonder if WRs get more impact at the tackle considering the collision is at higher speeds, and WR may not anticipate the collision when looking to make the catch. Plus WR probably log more running distance per game. Thus, I think WR should have less shelf-life. Just saying…I’m not so sure of this new truism that seems to be oft-stated, and not challenged.

    • Nopainnogain

      I wouldn’t be surprised if a greater percentage of wr tackles are from an angle rather than head-on, compared to rb tackles. not all wr work is over the middle, and on the edge stuff, the defense is mostly chasing. even the middle stuff has been protected by new ‘defenseless player’ rules which prevent Safeties from going for the kill. the fast-velocity head-on hits that make the highlights don’t happen very often anymore. when they do, the guys that are doing the hitting are usually 200 lbs or less. rb’s are being hit by 300 lb linemen and 250 lb linebackers and are often hit by more than one guy on a given play, which makes it difficult to protect yourself.

      the other thing is the impact frequency. top 32 rb’s average 260+ touches a season, which means they are getting hit at least that many times. top 32 wr’s average like 85 touches a season. rb’s are also asked to pick up blitzing lb’s on occasion and get hit on play-action calls when they don’t actually have the ball. as far as shelf life, the one study I’ve seen shows rb as the shortest (4.35 yr career) & wr is second-shortest (4.54 yr career), when looking at NFL players from 1987 through 1996 seasons.