Category Archives: James Starks

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.

30

December

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 33, Bears 28

Eddie Lacy and Aaron Rodgers make the Packers a dangerous team in the playoffs.

Eddie Lacy and Aaron Rodgers make the Packers a dangerous team in the playoffs.

In what began as a promising year and at one point took a dive into early NFL draft talk, the Green Bay Packers’ regular season ended Sunday exactly how they’d always hoped it would. With a division championship and a spot in the NFC playoffs.

It really has been a roller-coaster year for the Packers. After two losses in their first three games, the panic button seemed to be within arm’s distance. Then, suddenly, they were 5-2 with a favorable second-half schedule. But when Aaron Rodgers went down and Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn were forced to start games for Green Bay, the team’s playoff aspirations were in serious doubt.

But the team kept playing, stayed alive and played well enough to win the division, and it’s now time for a new season to begin.

This season–the postseason–is different than the regular season. It’s a five-week season with four possible games. It doesn’t matter who was starting for each team in September or who’s been lost along the way. Right now, there are 12 teams sitting at 0-0 while the other 20 teams reflect on their season and look ahead to the offseason.

The Packers are one of those 12 teams still alive. And they have a guy who wears No. 12 who makes them a contender to win the whole thing.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers were unspectacular if not just good enough. They’re not the Seattle Seahawks, nor the Carolina Panthers or San Francisco 49ers, but they have an offense that could score enough points against any defense in the postseason.

Right now, Rodgers is leaning on one of the NFC’s most consistent running games behind Eddie Lacy and an improving offensive line, and Randall Cobb has returned to the lineup to once again give the Packers one of the league’s top receiving corps. Jarrett Boykin has stepped up in a big way in his second NFL season, and Nelson has been able to handle some slot duties, but Cobb is undoubtedly the Packers’ best playmaker in the middle of the field–an area the Packers haven’t gotten much production out of since Cobb and Jermichael Finley were injured in October.

24

December

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Steelers 38, Packers 31

Eddie Lacy had his way with the Steelers' defense and could be in for a bigger day against the Bears if he's able to suit up.

Eddie Lacy had his way with the Steelers’ defense and could be in for a bigger day against the Bears if he’s able to suit up.

After the Green Bay Packers lost a home heartbreaker to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Packers’ playoff destiny fell out of their control.

But Jay Cutler and the division-leading Chicago Bears were blown out by the Philadelphia Eagles later Sunday night, and now it’ll be Packers-Bears in the final week of the regular season for the NFC North crown and a spot in the playoffs.

And for the umpteenth week in a row, a good portion of ALLGBP’s Game Balls and Lame Calls post will be centered around the increasingly unknown status of Aaron Rodgers, which got even cloudier when ESPN’s Chris Mortensen cited potential tension between Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy on NFL Countdown prior to Sunday’s game. Mortensen tweeted Rodgers remains at “extraordinary risk” with his fractured collarbone.

But the whole will-Rodgers-play-or-won’t-he-play debate or the why-isn’t-Rodgers-playing question seems kind of pointless, doesn’t it? Clearly, Rodgers isn’t ready to play right now. He hasn’t played since November 4, and he wants to play. Whether the final call falls with Rodgers, McCarthy, Ted Thompson or Dr. Pat McKenzie, the fact still remains: Rodgers isn’t ready to play right now.

During the pregame segment, Mortensen said Rodgers pushed the “organizational decision” narrative that he and McCarthy used so often last week as an attempt to defend his toughness in hopes of fending off comparisons to Brett Favre, who undoubtedly would have played through a broken leg and a freshly amputated throwing hand.

But while I think the Rodgers debate really comes down to semantics, the Countdown segment raised some questions to me. Rodgers is who he is. He’s probably the best quarterback in the NFL, and he’s probably better in 2013 than Favre was at any point of his career, in my opinion. Naturally, comparisons will exist between Favre and Rodgers just as they did with other eternally-linked quarterbacks such as the 49ers’ Joe Montana and Steve Young and last year’s draft class that produced Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. People like to compare people to other people.