Packers Running Backs: James Starks or Brandon Saine? All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Could Packers RB Brandon Saine be on the team over James Starks in 2013?
Could Packers RB Brandon Saine be on the team over James Starks in 2013?

I just recorded a podcast on the Packers running backs with my colleagues Jason Perone and Marques Eversoll. One of them, I can’t remember which, asked an interesting question: Will Brandon Saine make the Packers roster over James Starks?

Saine missed most of the 2012 season after blowing out his knee. He has 18 carries for 69 yards in his career and has contributed some on special teams.

Starks has missed all kinds of time with various injuries throughout his three-year career. When healthy, Starks shows just enough to get Packers fans excited before breaking/spraining/pulling/straining one of his limbs or muscles.

When this topic first came up, I thought it was a silly question. I didn’t think there was any way Saine could be on the team over Starks. But as the conversation carried on, I changed my mind.

Will Mike McCarthy have the patience to deal with Starks if he comes up lame yet again in training camp or the preseason? Will McCarthy even want to deal with the risk of Starks getting hurt again?

It sounds like McCarthy wants to find a back that can carry the load this season instead of always plugging in different players. Given Starks’ injury history, I’m not sure he meets the coach’s criteria.

Saine doesn’t fit that criteria either, but he can play special teams. Perhaps he also benefits a bit from lower expectations. Saine doesn’t need to be a bell-cow running back in order to earn a roster spot. If Starks isn’t running well, there’s not much else he brings to the table.

Of course, Saine is coming off a major injury himself, so this entire discussion could be moot if he’s limping around in training camp.

For some reason, there’s still a part of me that thinks Starks might have it in him and become the running back he was during the Super Bowl run. It might be the delusional part of me, but it’s still a part of me.

My money is still on Starks wearing a Packers jersey over Saine in 2013. That’s a major injury that Saine is coming back from.

What say you, fine readers of

Perhaps none of this will matter if the Packers draft Eddie Lacy and he runs for 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns…


Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .


25 thoughts on “Packers Running Backs: James Starks or Brandon Saine?

  1. Lacy will not get 1800 yards with the current OL! TT needs to fix the C/G position (give EDS a chance but use the draft to get competition in).

    If they are healthy in camp let them compete for sure – but draft a younger healthy RB.

  2. I like Saine. He is perfect all around back that can handle his assignments and play multiple roles. He was Ohio state sprint champion in the 100 and 400 M. He was the captain on the OSU squad as a senior. If he wasn’t injured last year, he would have been a real plus for the Packers both in the backfield and on special teams.

    Starks won’t be a Packer by the end of next year. His work ethic is suspect and he can’t pick up his backfield assignments to save his or Rodger’s soul. No room for that in this offense.

    1. I don’t think much of Saine. And sprinters rarely make great RB. Straight speed isn’t nearly as important quickness to change direction.

  3. I like Starks power, he seems to run with a lean and always fall forward. But I really dislike the way his arm flails around while running. He needs to learn to tuck it against his body. Not really fumble prone, though, so can’t really complain about that.

    I’m not sure what kind of back will work with our offensive line. We can’t keep anyone healthy long enough to determine whether a big bruiser, a quick-lightning-bug guy, or a an all-around back is best.

    1. Best is both. We have the lightning guy in Harris. We need more thunder.

      As other posters have posted…we could use a better storm up front so the thunder and lightning can happen.

      1. There are many big backs who don’t run with power, and many small backs who run surprisingly hard.

        I’m not so concerned–in terms of effectiveness–that the backs have different body types as I am that they have different running styles…and there is more to style than just speed and power.

  4. Saine’s body of work is too insubstantial to make a choice. I think that camp is going to be everything for both of these guys and it’s going to boil down to whoever can stay healthy.

    If they both do, Starks gets the nod.

  5. I’m more concerned about the LT and C positions on our line, and the quality of O-line coaching, than I am about who our running backs will be. We need a more effective O-line to make our running game work.

  6. Let’s not get all (in)Saine with whether Starks stays or not over Brandon or anyone for that matter.

    This kid has had some bad luck,a rookie hamstring that kept him on the PUP more for learning than the actual depth of the injury IMO at least,two mean/nasty hits on the knees that cause more time loss but certainly could have been worse and longer,when he looked and played strong and a turf toe that causes havoc no matter the player early in pre-season.

    Starks,if not for those bad luck rolls,would be IMO and I sense a few others,a solid runner and one who MM isn’t going to be quick to let go this camp or season…unless another bad luck roll comes in the way of an ACL/MCL season ender.

    When healthy..I know,I know…he’s the back we need and I’m hoping he can get the luck changed and I believe MM will give him all the opportunity to do so and the rewards will be high.

  7. I like Starks. He has the speed to get outside. When he makes his move he’ll
    hit it hard and punish the tackler.

    I like Saine as a better blocker and a
    receiver out of the backfield…not to
    mention special teams.

    Though both seem to be situational players.

    I’ve read that MM is wanting a 3 down
    back…Bell from MI ST(Packer Report)?

    Another RB will make for a crowded
    backfield and one or two could be out
    of the mix. Benson(money)and/or Saine
    (needs more time to heal). I’d like to
    see Starks get another chance.

    As always, I enjoy your articles and
    reading comments from the passionate
    Packer Fans!

  8. Draft a RB in the 3rd or 4th round like maybe Taylor, Michaels, or Franklyn. Trade down in round one, draft OT Watson in early round two, trade down in round two, draft NT Jenkins and WR Wheaton early in round three, and then think about C, RB, SS, and TE. I cannot see TT not drafting a RB somewhere in this draft. However, I see TT looking to adress both lines and WR early and RB and SS later…Traing camp will see 90 bodies with major competion at every position. Then GB will keep the best 53.

    1. I know I’m just re-stating what others have said, but I don’t see a makeover at the OT position early in the draft unless a Bulaga-type slide drops a highly rated player into TT’s lap.

      They’ve invested too much in the tackle position over the last few years (Bulaga, Sherrod) to not hope they can provide the answer. That said, you can never have too much OL depth, and a pick at OT might signal that Sherrod might never make it back.

  9. “Packers Running Backs: James Starks or Brandon Saine?”

    …I would like to vote for the unprovided mystery option C: a quality, durable, 3-down back with good speed and size and the ability to pick up blitzers.

    Is that too much to ask?

  10. The RB’s that make the final roster cuts need to be veristle and as injury free as possible. Niether Starks or Saine fit those requirements. Take a flyer on a draft choice and maybe give Green one more year to prove himself.

    Good luck to Zombo in KC.

  11. i will take saine. atleast he will be where he is supposed to be. AR does not trust starks and for good reason. often in the nfl it is not the RB with the most talent that will get the snaps. it is the guy that completely understands his assignments. saine is a good receiver, starks is not. hopefully they are all backing up harris. i would take harris, green and saine. starks has had his chance. cannot stay healthy and drops assignment in the passing game.

  12. Talent – Starks over Saine. Although mistakes are definitely made in the draft Starks was a 6th rd pick who probably would have been drafted in the 3rd or 4th rd if he had been healthy in college. Saine was undrafted.

    Injuries – Starks has multiple injuries, although mostly minor throughout college and with the Packers. This may be secondary to body build and somewhat upright running style. Saine has one major injury which hopefully will not result in lingering issues. The knee was early last season so hopefully he will be ready for training camp.

    Value – Saine provides value on special teams, blocking and as a reciever. Has not had an opportunity to display skills as a ballcarrier, possibly related to his lack of ability. Starks does not play special teams. Blocking and receiving are below average. Thus if not a feature back or sharing the carries he has limited value.

    Assuming no preseason injuries Harris has one spot. Greene if recovered has another. A draft choice or FA (unlikely) has another spot. Find it very hard to trust that Starks can stay healthy. Saine probably is better suited to be the 4th rb because of special teams play.

  13. Anybody else think they’ll eventually bring Benson back? I think they were just starting to like/trust him when he got hurt. Thoughts?

    GBP 4 LIFE

    1. Agree and he was just getting the zbs down and in synch w/ the blocking. Even w/ his adjusting to the blocking scheme, he was the best RB we had. I would take him back for another year on a vets min salary like he had last year. While he doesn’t have breakaway speed, he has the power running style that would compliment Harris very well.

    2. One thing that was lost in the shuffle was how many passes Benson caught in his limited time last season. He didn’t have Darren Sproles production, but it showed some versatility on his part that he hadn’t necessarily shown in the past.

  14. Discussing Saine just reminds me of how many injuries this team has had. I hope the injury jinks is over in GB. Getting our injured players back for the 2013 season will be like picking up some quality FAs. If we can land a few starters in the draft, we will have a chance. Heres to a relatively injury free season.

  15. Starks or Saine? Get real Harris, and Kuhn are the only backs that have shown they can play. Kuhn is over paid, but watching him de-cleat Jared Allen is SOOOO much fun.

    Aaron will continue to be the most sacked QB in the league until there is a viable RB on the squad. It’s not the OL. If your playing the Pack you are going to load up on the pass and win. Plus Aaron is going to get hurt if TT doesn’t get MM a back who makes the defense pay for loading up on the pass.

    1. “If your playing the Pack you are going to load up on the pass and win.”

      Only a limited number of teams have shown that they can do that against the Packers (Giants, Niners, etc.), but I don’t deny that a viable running game (not necessarily through a single back) will help.

  16. Saine.

    Best hands on the team according to #12.

    Can pass pro much better than James “One Missed Block Away From Killing Our Franchise QB” Starks.

  17. The Packers need a back that can stay healthy. They also need to upgrade O line.
    I’ve always liked Starks running style, but like sooo many Packers, the injury bug makes him very suspect. Injuries have short circuited many a player the last few years.

Comments are closed.