Category Archives: James Starks

21

July

Packers Xs and Os: What We Might See From McCarthy’s Up-Tempo Offense (Part 1)

Will Aaron Rodgers be leading an up-tempo or no huddle offense in 2014? (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today).

Will Aaron Rodgers be leading an up-tempo or no huddle offense in 2014? (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today).

This off season, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy mentioned two philosophical adjustments he would like to see his offense implement this year: 1) run a faster up-tempo game plan with 75 plays per game, and 2) have three-down players on the field to limit the number of substitutions, which will speed up the game tempo.

These are pretty lofty goals, but the Packers do have the offensive personnel to execute it, particularly because their top three running backs (Eddie Lacy, James Starks, and DuJuan Harris) are three-down backs. The biggest question mark will be if their starting tight end is up to the task of multiple formations and assignments.

In order to execute those two offensive objectives, it’s more than just snapping the ball with plenty of time left on the play clock; it’s an elaborate implementation of situation football.

As my standard disclaimer, I’ve never seen McCarthy’s playbook and none of us will know how he will go about carrying out these plans until the week one opening game against the Seattle Seahawks. But, I will speculate about some things I expect us to see while the Packers are in their up-tempo game.

When to Go Up-Tempo

The offense should only go up-tempo when the score is close or they are behind. If they are sitting on a large lead, it makes sense to slow down the plays to bleed the clock. But, there’s also down and distance rules, as well as clock management strategies, that should be considered.

  • 1st and 2nd downs at almost any distance to gain are acceptable for up-tempo and no huddle.
  • 3rd down and 7 yards or less are also acceptable for up-tempo and no huddle. Longer 3rd downs often necessitate a huddle to ensure the best play call and allow the offense to slow down and gain composure. That is, unless, the offense is in a two-minute drill.
  • Re-huddle after clock stoppages (penalties, out of bounds, incomplete passes, change of possession, instant replay review, etc).

Three-Down 11 Personnel 

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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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7

April

Xs and Os: Packers Running Game from Substitution Packages

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Packers running back Johnathan Franklin had a career day against the Cincinnati Bengals while running out of substitution packages.

The key to the Green Bay Packers’ offensive success is having the ability to run or pass out of any personnel grouping and formation, especially with multiple wide receivers on the field.

This means, in order to achieve offensive balance, the Packers must be able to run out of passing formations with substitution packages.

A substitution package is when the offense deploys different personnel than their base 21 group (2 running backs, 1 tight end, and 2 wide receivers. The Packers like running the 11 (1 running back, 1 tight end, and 3 wide receivers) and the 10 personnel groupings (1 running back, 0 tight ends, 4 wide receivers) on any down and distance.

Obviously, not having an extra running back (the fullback) or tight end (or H-back) on the field could pose a schematic disadvantage in the running game by having fewer bigger bodies on the field.

However, with the use of well-designed blocking packages and willing blocks by the wide receivers, the Packers had good success with running the ball from substitution groups.

Under the tutelage of wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett, who was a former running back, the Packers receiving corps has developed into a solid group of blockers who contribute immensely to the running game. This is one of the most underrated aspects of the Packers’ offensive success.

Let’s take a look at some of the staples of this deployment.

Disclaimer 1: You know the drill by now. #YKTDBN. I have never seen Mike McCarthy’s playbook. #IHNSMMP.

Disclaimer 2: #YKTDBN. This is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes. #TIAOFIP. Different formations and defensive fronts will change the blocking rules.

11 Outside Toss Strong: This play is frequently run from shotgun 11 personnel with an offset running back to the strong side of the formation. The key to the play is to get the ball outside and away from the defensive end and Sam linebacker.

Slide1

The outside wide receiver blocks down on the slot cornerback ($) and the slot receiver kicks out and sets the leverage on the strong side cornerback. Notice that the slot is further off the line of scrimmage to allow the outside receiver more time to block down.

26

March

Patience and Proactivity Pay Off for Packers GM Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson manages the Packers roster by balancing patience and proactivity.

Ted Thompson manages the Packers roster by balancing patience and proactivity.

General manager Ted Thompson runs the Green Bay Packers football operations his way.

The Thompson way is characterized by accumulating draft picks, developing drafted players, re-signing young Packers players on the rise, and largely avoiding bidding wars with players leaving other teams during the opening of free agency.

Depending on the fans prospective, this is usually a love or hate relationship. Fans either love the draft and develop approach or long for big name signings in free agency.

However, Ted Thompson has utilized a combination of patience and proactivity to bring his vision of building a franchise to life.

Thompson isn’t afraid of free agency. Rather, he waits until the initial frenzy is over to avoid overpaying players. Doing this has yielded quality players in the past, including Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett, who were both signed in 2006.

Both Pickett and Woodson were integral players in the 2010 Super Bowl run, and when looking back at their contracts, they appeared to be relative bargains when compared to their contributions to the team.

When free agency opened in 2014, Thompson appeared to be quiet. While teams like the Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints were throwing money around like they printed it, Thompson waited.

By waiting until the overpaying binge subsided, he was able to sign defensive end Julius Peppers at a very competitive contract (3 years, $30 million) and bolster the interior defensive line with Letroy Guion (1 year, $1 million).

Will Peppers have the same impact as either Woodson or Pickett? We certainly hope so, but only time will tell.

Rather than panicking and overpaying impeding offensive free agents running back James Starks and tight end Andrew Quarless, Thompson was able to bring them back for a modest investment (2 years, $3.17 million and 2 years, $3 million, respectively).

Not only is Thompson patient, he’s also proactive.

He’s great at extending players before they ever hit free agency. Similarly, he has knack for re-signing his own players in that small window between when their contracts expire and when they’re able to test the market.

18

March

Packers Re-Sign RB Starks to Two-Year Deal

James Starks

Starks returns to Green Bay on a two-year deal

The Green Bay Packers have re-signed running back James Starks to a two-year contract.  The news broke last night via ESPN’s Adam Schefter (who else?) and his famous Twitter account.

Starks had just finished a visit with the Pittsburgh Steelers when he came to terms with the Packers.

Starks was a sixth-round draft pick for Green Bay in 2010.  He was placed on the physically unable to perform list after suffering an injury during training camp.  He made his debut in November of that year and was an instrumental piece to the Packers’ Super Bowl run that season.

Starks has had more than his fair share of injuries throughout his brief career, but when healthy, has proven to be effective in a tandem-type role.

The Packers currently have six running backs under contract:  Starks, Eddie Lacy, DuJuan Harris, Johnathan Franklin, Michael Hill and Orwin Smith.  Fullback John Kuhn may also return.  Hill and Smith would seem to be long shots to make the team’s roster this season, barring an injury.

Starks was thought to be on his way out of Green Bay heading into last year’s offseason when he had a strong training camp and pre season and found himself back in green and gold.  He likely faces a similar challenge this offseason, although the multiple year deal would indicate that the Packers probably have Starks in their plans for the 2014 season.

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

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24

February

James Starks Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

Packers RB James Starks

Packers RB James Starks

1) Introduction:  James Starks was, if anything, an afterthought prior to the Packers’ 2013 season. After Ted Thompson spent a pair of draft picks on Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, the thought was that the rookies, along with a returning DuJuan Harris and/or Alex Green would make up the Packers’ backfield rotation. But that was not the case, as Harris didn’t play a single snap this season, and Green was cut before the season began. Starks was back. And he was pretty good, too.

2) Profile:

James Darell Starks

  • Age: 27
  • Born: 2/25/1986 in Niagara Falls, NY
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 218
  • College: Buffalo
  • Rookie Year: 2010
  • NFL Experience: 4 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Slim to none. Two roster spots were claimed by rookies Lacy and Franklin, while DuJuan Harris was expected to play a major role after coming on strong late in the 2012-13 season as the feature back. Starks was very much on the roster bubble headed into training camp.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: The highlight of Starks’ season, individually, was undoubtedly week two against the Washington Redskins. After Lacy suffered a concussion on the game’s first possession, Starks was thrust into the starting role and responded with a 132-yard day on the ground. Starks’ performance against the Chicago Bears in week 17 (88 rushing yards) is worth an honorable mention. As far as low-lights, it’s hard to really pinpoint anything in particular. He exceeded expectations and tied a career high, appearing in 13 games.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success:  Lacy’s physical running style leaves him susceptible to hits like the one he suffered against the Redskins, so having a capable backup is essential for the Packers. Starks stepped up to the plate whenever he was called upon, and the offense really didn’t miss a beat. His 5.5-yards-per-carry average was easily the best on the team.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs:  Starks was good, not spectacular in the Packers’ playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. He totaled 42 yards on six touches in relief of Lacy.

Season Report Card:

(A) Level of expectations met during the season

(C+) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(C+) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade:  B

7

January

Packers Free Agent Overview: Offense

Will Packers running back James Starks return and once again team up with Eddie Lacy?

With 17 free agents and just under $10 million in salary cap space carrying over into 2014, changes are coming to the Green Bay Packers roster.

We’ve already taken a look at upcoming Packers free agents on defense. Now let’s examine the decisions Packers general manager Ted Thompson has to make about free agents on offense.

WR James Jones
When Jones hit the open market in 2011, there were few buyers and he ended up back in Green Bay. After three good seasons, will Jones find more suitors this time around? He’s been a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver his whole career, but Jones has had stretches where he kinda sorta looks like a No. 1. At 29 years old, though, I doubt anyone will pay Jones as a No. 1 receiver and it could lead to him once again landing back in Green Bay at another Packers-friendly contract. With the emergence of Jarrett Boykin down the stretch, Thompson has plenty of leverage when negotiating with Jones and might even feel comfortable enough to move on entirely from the man who wears a sleeveless turtleneck. It’ll be interesting to see if Aaron Rodgers lobbies for Jones to be re-signed like he did back in 2011.

TE Jermichael Finley
This one will be up to the doctors. If Finley is cleared to play football again, how big of a contract is a team willing to give him? Does Finley sign a cheaper one-year deal and try to prove himself all over again to land a fat deal in 2015? Even if he is cleared to play, are the Packers interested in re-signing him?

TE Andrew Quarless
Quarless didn’t come close to filling the playmaking void left by Finley, but he did have a few moments. Quarless’s future will be determined by what happens with Finley and whether the Packers address the tight end position in the draft.

C Evan Dietrich-Smith
The Packers put the lowest restricted free-agent tender on Dietrich-Smith last offseason and were able to retain him. When Dietrich-Smith hits the market this offseason, he should have more interest. The Packers were effective on the ground in 2013 and Dietrich-Smith’s physical play was a contributing factor. But with J.C. Tretter waiting in the wings and capable centers available in the mid-rounds of the draft, Thompson could choose to save some money for other areas of the team and let Dietrch-Smith find work elsewhere.