24

June

Cory’s Corner: A healthy DuJuan Harris is a perfect No. 2

DuJuan Harris rushed for 157 yards in four games in 2012. He missed all of last season with a knee injury.

DuJuan Harris rushed for 157 yards in four games in 2012. He missed all of last season with a knee injury.

The news about Johnathan Franklin was stunning and devastating.

Even without Franklin, the Packers’ running back position still appears to have plenty of promise. There is a Rookie of the Year returning in Eddie Lacy and a guy that tore up the postseason en route to a Super Bowl title in James Starks.

But with Franklin’s career-ending injury, DuJuan Harris is a guy that the Packers really need to produce.

Harris injured his knee last August on a screen pass against the Seahawks and was subsequently placed on season-ending injured reserve.

Harris and Starks are easily comparable. Both are compact and hard-charging runners. Both have decent speed and both don’t shy away from getting or laying a hit.

But the difference is that Harris has plenty of tread left on his tires. He only has 43 carries entering his fourth season as opposed to Starks who’s got 322 carries entering his fifth season.

Starks has been riddled with injury problems his entire football playing career. Whether it’s the knee, turf toe, both shoulders, hamstring, or an ankle, he has seen his fair share of pain.

Which is why Harris needs to assert himself in training camp and make a case to be the No. 2 running back. Fans fell in love with Harris’ story in 2012. Before he was signed in October he was just an ordinary car salesman.

And the Packers could use a solid complement to Lacy, who cannot be expected to maintain his workload from a year ago. While Lacy does have a nice spin move, he is a straight-up runner and is a big target for defenders.

But it’s all up to Harris’ knee and his psyche. If his knee feels well, but he has reservations about getting hit or potentially injuring it again, then he will never unseat Starks.

However, if he runs confidently like he did in 2012 when he averaged 4.6 yards a carry on 34 rushing attempts, he will be spelling Lacy soon.

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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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32 Responses to “Cory’s Corner: A healthy DuJuan Harris is a perfect No. 2”

  1. Sven says:

    Just a small note: It was Richard Sherman who injured Harris’ knee last preseason. He dove head first into Harris’ legs as Harria went out of bounds. I thought it looked like a sorta cheap shot, as Harris was going out of bounds and it was preseason.

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  2. Big T says:

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    • Sven says:

      So is Lacy, but he plays through it. He played hurt in several games.

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      • Oppy says:

        Yup, Lacy’s known for being banged up throughout his entire career, but always playing through it.

        Even though he won’t come off the field, his various nicks and bruises are supposedly why some feel he fell a bit in the draft- the perception he’s got a lot of mileage on his body.

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    • Oppy says:

      Why is Harris injury prone? I thought the knee was really his only injury?

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  3. James David Marsh says:

    James Starks has proven to be the number two running back. That being said, I hope that Harris will prove to be a capable replacement. Also do not sleep on the rookie Neal. He might step up.

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    • Oppy says:

      Keep in mind that Mike McCarthy was excited to put Dujuan Harris in the driver’s seat as the featured RB last season. MM more than once stated he will be the started, and even gushed about how he was going to use him.

      It was only his pre-season injury that left the door open for Lacy/Starks at the beginning of the season.

      Clearly, Lacy has secured the starting position now. But I’m not sure the “#2″ spot is Starks’ to lose.. If we even have a definable #2/#3 slot.

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  4. juzanthepus says:

    Starks is “compact,” since when?

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    • Slim11 says:

      I saw that, too.

      No matter how hard he tries, James Starks just can’t be as compact as Harris due to the height difference. Harris can definitely make himself a smaller target.

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      • Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

        I agree. Starks and Harris both run with power – albeit a different kind. Harris is more comparable to MJD (but not as good). Shifty, elusive, fast and runs with leverage (power) because of his smaller size.

        Starks is built in the mold of AP. (but not as good) Big. Fast. Strong as hell. He’s just 2 or 3 inches too tall – so his hitting zone is large. He’ll always break down if used as a feature back. He can’t handle 200 carries a year.

        They are both effective change of pace backs from the Bus-Like Eddie Lacy. It’ll be interesting to see how MM uses all 3 backs this year. If his comments so far are any harbinger of things to come, Eddie is going to be the bell-cow, James is going to be the change of pace back, and DuJuan is going to be the backup.

        IMO Eddie will carry the ball 75-100 times less this year, but get more work on 3rd down. James will get used more this year as the change of pace back (until/if he gets injured) and DuJuan would (ideally be used heavily on ST and work as the backup to both principal running/receiving roles).

        Good problem to have – even without Franklin (sigh) in the mix.

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      • Oppy says:

        Starks doesn’t even try to be a compact runner, lol. It’s a tough gig when you’re 6’1″ but he’s known for having enough of an upright running style that it makes his coaches a little nervous about injury.

        Looked nice last year as a change of pace after Lacy softens up the front seven, though!

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  5. Wagszilla says:

    I don’t like the MJD analogy.

    I think Darren Sproles is the more apt analogy and how Harris should be used. If he can block halfway decent 4-WR Verts and Harris on the check down could be deadly.

    I really hope he comes on this year. I think he could be great.

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    • Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

      Sproles would work too. But IMO Harris is stronger than Sproles and not as fast. Probably not as shifty either. Just IMHO…

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      • Stroh says:

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        • Bedrock says:

          I swear people see it’s a comment from Stroh and automatically hit the thumbs down.

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          • Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

            That’s because although he’s a smart NFL fan, Stroh has proven over and over again that he doesn’t care to treat people as people on the other end of his keyboard.

            He’s got “facebook balls.” Verrry brave of him. ;)

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            • dobber says:

              “He’s got “facebook balls.””

              What is that, some kind of indecent selfie?

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            • Stroh says:

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    • marpag says:

      I would have to say that any comparison between Harris and Sproles is completely, 100% off base. The only real similarity that seems to exist is that both are considered to be short. But even there, Sproles is a microscopic 5’6″ which is a good 2 inches shorter (and 15 lbs lighter) even than Harris.

      As far as their game is concerned, I see no comparison at all. Sproles has been one of the most multidimensional backs in the game. Although he’s not much of a power runner (as Harris definitely is), he is far far far more elusive than any of the Packers one-cut RBs.

      Sproles might be the best pass catching RB of his time. In his career, Sproles has rushed 437 times for 2221 yards, but he has 378 receptions for 3381 yards. In other words, 45% of Sproles touches and 60% of his yards are receptions. Does that sound like Harris?? Harris has caught 3 passes in his career. And despite his small size, Sproles is/was awesome as a pass protector, which is something that none of the Packer RBs are especially good at.

      The Packers DO NOT HAVE a “change of pace” running back. They have a one-cut, punch-you-in-the-face runner, followed by a one-cut, knee-you-in-the-groin runner, followed by a one-cut, trample-your-dead-body runner. That can work, but it’s not really a change of pace at all. Sproles, on the other hand, would be a DEFINITE change of pace.

      Which RB lines up on third down will probably be decided by which one proves to be the best in pass pro. Right now, none of them are that good – except for Kuhn, who isn’t much of a runner.

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  6. Stroh says:

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  7. aaronqb says:

    I don’t think the tread left on the tire argument has validity. 322 carries in 4 years is puny. That’s an average of 20 carries per game in a 16-game season, so it’s a reasonable number of carries in one season.

    I think Starks will get more carries than Harris and I think, when healthy, Starks is the better back.

    Harris would be a great #3 back and also a potential kickoff returner.

    And, if history teaches us anything, it is that GB needs multiple options at RB as they seem to go down with injury often.

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    • Morgan Mundane says:

      Apparently Mike doesn’t like Starks. He tended to ignore him most of last year even though he was running off some nice runs and I thought could have done a lot more if they let him. I too think he is talented but Mike has a one track mind: lacy left lacy right

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  8. WKUPackFan says:

    GB kept Starks around throughout all the injuries for a simple reason, he’s really good! Explosive and strong, although as others have mentioned Starks is somewhat of a straight up runner. Reminds me of Robert Smith.

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  9. Nopainnogain says:

    I wouldn’t necessarily say that Starks is lacking tread on his tires. 322 carries is not alot for 4 seasons of work. there are players that get that many carries in 1 season. if he performs like he did last year and stays healthy, he’s as good a #2 as there is. Harris is insurance.

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  10. GBPDAN says:

    I really like the RB situation this year. I’m bummed out, like everyone else, that Franklin got hurt, but, I still like what I see. Starks had his best year last year and looked good running the ball. Lacey is simply a man amongst boys. What a great talent. And if Harris gains his 2012 form, we are loaded at RB. I also think some other young RB currently on the roster is going to turn heads in training camp and the preseason.

    What’s as exciting about the running game is that our Oline really seamed to get better last year run blocking, especially down the stretch. And now we have Bulaga coming back and possibly a better option at center then EDS, although that remains to be seen.

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  11. Boogerface says:

    My god, Starks is decent, but if Harris has no knee issues look out cause that dude is a little big BEAST!!! Mark my words shoot write em down take a picture.

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  12. Morgan Mundane says:

    I like Harris if he can stay healthy and ditto on Starks.
    I pray Mike gets off the lets only run Lacy kick and alternates guys. I think its wise to shake things up. keep fresh backs who tend to not break down mid season.

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  13. Shavager says:

    Yah, I doubt Harris has the power that Starks has in those thighs. Starks can drive the pile with those legs, Harris isn’t quite as powerful, makes that up being speedier and shiftier in his runs. Despite injuries earlier in career, Starks finished out the season as a definite change of pace attack that gashed many opponents after Lacy’s pounding. Forget about it, NO way Harris would’ve finished season ahead of Lacy as starter last year-anybody watching these two guys knew one needs speed and quick moves to dodge tacklers, the other just pounds them to death. Lacy brings the “ground and pound” that Packers haven’t had since Taylor/Hornung or Eddie Lee Ivery and Gerry Ellis.

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