Packers Running Backs: The team invested a second round pick two years ago and it paid off with Offensive Rookie of the Year honors for former Crimson Tide player Eddie Lacy. Lacy followed up his successful rookie campaign with a very good year in 2014. His rushing stats were almost identical to 2013 but his pass catching ability was highlighted to a larger degree in an effort to round him into the three down back the team has been lacking since the days of Ahman Green.
With the primary back position solidified it was expected that James Starks and Jonathan Franklin would be fighting for the #2 spot. That quickly ended with Franklin’s abrupt retirement after an early season neck injury diagnosis which revealed an elevated chance for paralysis should he continue playing.
Following a year spent on injured reserve McCarthy favorite DuJuan Harris was also in the equation for playing time after showing spurts of being an elusive and dependable third down back prior to landing on season-ending injured reserve for most of the 2013 season.
The fullback position is in a diminished state throughout the league, but the Packers rely on the position as much as any team. Reliable veteran John Kuhn returned on a one year contract to provide Aaron Rodgers and the offensive coaching staff with a security blanket that other younger backs were unable to provide.
Where are we now:
The current roster includes:
Eddie Lacy (2nd Round)
James Starks (7th Round)
DuJuan Harris (F.A.)
John Kuhn (F.A.)
Eddie Lacy: A solid number one running back who had a relatively healthy year. His time off the field due to injury was cut dramatically as new running backs coach and former player Sam Gash sought to tutor Lacy on avoiding direct hits and utilizing more of his famous spin moves.
James Starks: A hard-charging number two back who flashed at times and disappeared at others. Not a particularly good receiver, but a willing and mostly effective blocker.
DuJuan Harris: Unable to contribute much of anything from the line of scrimmage, Harris was relegated to the primary kick returner duty. Perhaps a result of his injury, Harris was unable to make his mark on kickoffs either. He was tentative and indecisive in his approach to the job and did more dancing than charging north-south for yardage. It got so bad that he lost his job entirely at season’s end and was a healthy scratch for the playoffs. Certainly this is not what coach Mike McCarthy had envisioned at the start of the season.
John Kuhn: Back after signing a one-year low budget contract Kuhn was steady and mistake free again this past year. But approaching his 32nd birthday at a diminished position it will be interesting to see if Kuhn returns in 2015. At some point the team will need to look at a younger player who will be able to grow and prosper in the years to come.
Where we want to be: The Packers have to be very pleased with the progress of stud halfback Eddie Lacy. He appears to be making the jump from a one-dimensional runner to a three down back capable of blocking and catching the ball. Ideally the team will bring back James Starks to compete for the second position and challenge him with a complementary back who would be able to effectively return kicks as well as provide a change of pace to big backs Lacy and Starks. Having a more reliable third down back as an option is something the Packers must look for as well.
How do we get there: Quite simply, the answer lies in the upcoming 2015 draft. There are a number of capable backs that the Packers could bring in to heighten the competition and hopefully find a reliable kick returner. There is little need to invest a high draft pick here unless a stud back falls into their lap in rounds two – four. Remember Franklin was surprisingly available in round four after some experts thought he carried a second round grade going into the 2013 draft. There should also be plenty of capable young backs available in later rounds as well as free agency. Exclusive Rights FA Harris is a question mark to return given his minimal contribution last season.——————
Jeff Albrecht grew up just north of Green Bay and was lucky enough to attend some of the Lombardi Era classic games, like the 1962 championship and the Ice Bowl. Jeff went on to play HS football in the Green Bay area and College ball at UW - Stevens Point. Jeff is retired but still does some writing for his local paper. Jeff is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @pointerjeff .