11

August

Alex Green: Quiet in Return, Benson in Town, but Opportunity Awaits

Packers RB Alex Green

Packers RB Alex Green

Packers running back Alex Green was quiet in his return to the field, but he passed his most important test–he stayed healthy in his first game nine months removed from ACL surgery.

While Green only managed a meager three yards and three carries against the Chargers, starter James Starks performed even worse. The first preseason game of the 2012 season put an exclamation point on Starks’s inconsistent start to training camp. After dropping a pass that surely would have resulted in a first down on the team’s first drive, Starks lost a fumble deep in the Packers’ own territory.

And with Thursday’s news that the Packers are close to signing veteran running back Cedric Benson, it’s clear that the team is worried about the current state of the position.

The Packers’ current trio of running backs is inexperienced to say the least. Starks, Green and Brandon Saine have just 28 games of experience and 759 career rushing yards between the three of them. Benson, 29, has surpassed 1,000 in each of the past three seasons.

If Benson, in fact, signs with the Packers–which he hasn’t yet–his spot on the team would not be guaranteed. It’s unlikely that the Packers would keep more than three running backs, especially because fullback John Kuhn is a capable ball carrier. Kuhn, Starks and Green each has a secure roster spot, so unless the Packers were able to stash Brandon Saine on the Practice Squad, the team would face a tough decision between the veteran Benson, or the young Saine.

Regardless of who wins the job as the Packers’ “feature back,” head coach Mike McCarthy has clearly shown that he’s not afraid to employ a pass-heavy offense–understandably so, with league MVP Aaron Rodgers under center. And assuming the team continues it’s pass-oriented ways in 2012, the running back most capable of making an impact as a receiver is Green.

Hawaii’s spread attack inflated Green’s gaudy 8.2-yards-per-carry average as a senior, but headed into the 2011 NFL Draft, he was viewed as one of the top receiving running backs in the entire class. And because the Packers use a pass-when-you-can-run-when-you-have-to offense with McCarthy and Rodgers in control, Green may surprise some people in 2012.

Green faces an uphill battle coming off last year’s season-ending ACL injury, but the medical history of Starks going back to his college days at Buffalo is both well-known and worrisome to Packers fans. The coaching staff has spoken about the importance of Starks staying healthy for a full season, but at this point, it seems highly unlikely that the injury-prone third-year running back will be on the field every Sunday.

After Starks missed his entire senior season at Buffalo with a shoulder injury, he started his rookie season on the PUP list and only appeared in three regular season games. Last season, Starks stayed relatively healthy, appearing in 13 of 16 games, but only registering one total touchdown–which happened to come in week one against New Orleans.

Athletically, Starks is likely the Packers’ most talented running back, but his lack of durability and recurring inconsistencies could mean there’s some uncertainty at the top of the depth chart. And if the Packers continue their “Aaron it out” style offensively under Rodgers, Green could have a chance to relive some of his Hawaii highs in Green Bay.

——————

Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

——————

10 Responses to “Alex Green: Quiet in Return, Benson in Town, but Opportunity Awaits”

  1. Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

    The vast majority of people in Packerland felt Starks needed to improve his pass protection only and as seen in the preseason game he nailed it though for the short time in said game.However,after a fumble that is being bantered as the OMG cut him now chant,it’s amazing we aren’t demanding the heads of those who fumbled and dropped passes in the playoff game against the G-Men.
    Donald Driver said it’s just about getting the rust in a real game feel and all will be fine.Since DD is a God in GB..perhaps those who are slicing Starks into pieces already should heed the words of DD and wait for more contributed evidence to warrant such rants for his cutting.Besides,aren’t most who didn’t want DD back still waiting to see him against an opponent other than his own teammates.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 6

    • Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

      Lovin it…4 dislikes and not one counter view posted.Deep inside,most know Starks isn’t as bad as you think.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

      • Wagszilla says:

        It’s pretty simple:

        1. His running is average.
        2. He can’t catch.
        3. He can’t consistently pass protect.
        4. He has a history of injuries.

        #2 and 3 are cardinal sins in the modern NFL and the coach can’t tolerate #4.

        Post more, so I can down vote those too.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

      • Oppy says:

        Starks actually had some good blocking to run behind, and he repeatedly left yards on the field on thursday night. He looked like the Ryan Grant of 2010, stammering, stuttering, running up the backs of his blockers instead of finding the crease they created and getting the extra 3-4 yards that were possible.

        If you can’t see the indecisiveness Starks has been putting on display since last season, you don’t have any idea what you are looking at in the first place. It is imperative in this scheme to quickly make a decision and hit the hole hard with conviction. That’s how you consistently gain the 4 yards that the ZBS is supposed to net you on just about every down.

        P.S.- Fumbling isn’t tolerated in this offense.. But a veteran dropping a perfectly placed hand off from the QB without any contact is inexcusable. It’s ridiculous.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  2. Buddahs Twin says:

    The first preseason game, actually pretty much all of them, are really practice and conditioning so really isn’t all that important. But if the fumbling etc. has been as prevalent and the RB’s poor judgement the norm and not the exception then a change is needed. And as long as the Packers as a team is improved I don’t care if Starks is demoted or cut and C. Benson is signed. While Benson my not be the best RB out there he at least has the ability to be a workhorse RB if needed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. packett says:

    I wouldn’t give up on Starks. It is more than a running back that makes the running game. There are lots of pieces being juggled on the line. I hope cheeseheads are more patient to see coaches work this RB-Oline and get the cohesion needed for Running game to evolve. It will take patience, and pulling quick trigger only undermines the time it takes to build the chemistry. If anything, the lack of frequency to running plays last year is a factor in where we are today. I say; Send message; Packers are committed to running game…Keep Starks, Green, Saine,Kuhn and yes….Benson too. We want to see serious committment by coaches.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. packett says:

    added comment: Packers were lucky last year to storm the NFL with such passing marvel. We won’t see same this year as teams prepare and counter. Without a run game upgrade…Packers will close out at around 8-8. A surprise shift to run game in the early part of season would again throw off the NFC north.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Wagszilla says:

      8-8? Huh?

      Even if you assume that opponents do prepare more, they won’t necessarily have all of the personnel to cover. Unless they’re going to play 6 DBs to cover Jordy, Jennings, and Finley they’re not going to be able to do it.

      This is failing to mention the changes in the Packers’ scheme, new looks, etc.

      I mean I’m all for more run game to take pressure off Aaron (mostly through dump-off/short pass game) but 8-and-8? Really?

      What.

      P.S. Agreed with keeping 5 RBs. I’d love to see that.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Oppy says:

    Apparently, Starks sat out of practice with turf toe on Saturday..

    Starks’ toughness is definitely questionable at this point.

    We have a coach who on one hand reminds the media that “injuries are a part of the game” in certain situations… In others, he calls players out and challenges them in the by saying they need to “stay healthy” or “be available”.

    No bones about it, McCarthy makes the distinction between injury and playing hurt. Starks is one of the guys he has challenged in the past to make it through a season and be available. If you are injured, you’re injured. If you are hurt, you need to man up and play through it if at all possible.

    Gotta wonder about Starks. After a lousy showing in SD, you’d think the coaches would have to physically remove him from the practice field.

    Turf toe hurts, I know. But not practicing hurts more, especially after a lousy outing like thursday night’s.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. BTF says:

    If Benson makes the team and Starks doesn’t -neither of which of course is certain it will be down to more than in game performance IMO.

    Starks wasn’t great last year but he wasn’t dreadful either. However his pratice habits have been called out in the past and most of the mistakes he seems to make are apparently mental errors. I of course have no inside information whatsover but I’d place a small bet that it’s Starks professionalism in slight question not his ability..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0