A year ago, everyone was screaming for general manager Ted Thompson to fix the running game as the Packers finished 20th in the NFL in team rushing offense.
Heading into the 2013 NFL Draft, most analysts tabbed Eddie Lacy as the top running back. However, Lacy was the fourth back off the board.
In training camp, a picture taken and posted online by the Packers that gave the impression that he was carrying a little too much weight. The photo quickly went viral and teams began justifying why they steered clear of the powerful Alabama back because of how husky he looked.
It isn’t going to take long to figure out that Bengals, Steelers and Broncos missed on getting a franchise cornerstone that can run through and around defenders.
In the preseason he proved why he’s the real deal with perfectly placed spin moves that made him resemble a third down scat back.
Lacy is the most important feature of this offense for the success of this team. Obviously having Aaron Rodgers is of the utmost importance, but with Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson only playing two snaps in the preseason, the passing game will have to get its sea legs before it can start wowing its opponents.
Until then, Lacy needs to be the dominant straight-ahead runner that they coveted last spring. And if he continues to get creases and keeps his thick legs churning the Packers will snap the longest active streak of 43-straight games without a 100-yard rusher.
The most impressive stat from Lacy last year was when Alabama’s offense was facing third down with a range of one to three yards to pick up the first down. Here, teams are keying on the run and most of the time, Alabama has an extra blocker in the game telling the opponent its intentions. On 21 attempts, he racked up 108 yards, good enough for a very strong 5.14 average. Those are very respectable numbers from the SEC.
Lacy has shown he can catch the ball, but that isn’t his best quality. He likes to hit the opponent just as much as the opponent likes to hit him. Defenders will begin to learn his ferocity after taking his helmet to the ribs on multiple occasions.
Besides setting up the passing game, and giving the offense another weapon, Lacy is the guy that can bleed the clock late in the game. How many times over the last two years have we seen the Packers maintain a four-point lead with two minutes left only to punt it back to the opponent because they couldn’t move the chains?
Lacy will change that. He will suck the life out of opponents in the waning moments. He had at least 15 carries eight times last year and had 20 carries when it mattered most — in the SEC Championship and BCS national title game.
Some people have said that Lacy isn’t as versatile as Montee Ball or Giovani Bernard. Even if that’s the case, which it’s not, Lacy is more NFL ready right now than both of those two.
When Lacy isn’t carrying the ball, his main concern needs to be sacrificing his body for Rodgers or mastering the finer points of pass blocking, the biggest stumbling blocks for younger backs.
I’ve always said that the Packers haven’t needed a dominant back ever since James Starks tallied 66, 72 and 54 yards on the ground in the final three postseason games en route to winning the Super Bowl in 2011.
But now they’ve got one. And with the unproven depth behind Cobb and Nelson combined with the inconsistency of tight end Jermichael Finley, his presence will not only be much appreciated, but highly needed.
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