19

December

This season, Eddie Lacy over Le’Veon Bell an obvious choice

Eddie Lacy and Mike Daniels celebrate Lacy's fourth-quarter touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys.

Eddie Lacy and Mike Daniels celebrate Lacy’s fourth-quarter touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made headlines earlier in the week when he said it was an “easy” decision to draft former Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell over Alabama bruiser Eddie Lacy.

“It was an easy decision for me,” Tomlin said Tuesday, per ESPN. “Obviously, Lacy’s a top-quality back, but probably it’s a matter of preference — just like I’m sure Cincinnati went through the same discussions and thoughts when they took Giovani Bernard in front of both of them.”

Bernard, Bell and Lacy have each enjoyed a successful first season in the NFL, albeit in different ways. Bernard has served in predominantly a complementary role with the Bengals alongside BenJarvus Green-Ellis, while Bell and Lacy have been “the guy” for their respective teams for as long as they’ve been healthy.

It will be several years before we’re able to determine who’s the best running back from this year’s draft class, but the best running back from the 2013 class–in 2013–is Lacy.

Bell–the 48th pick in April’s draft–has proven to be a well-rounded back who can play all three downs, but Lacy–the 61st pick–has emerged as one of the most reliable runners in the NFL with the Packers, possibly on his way to being named this year’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Throwing out the Washington game in which Lacy suffered a concussion on his first carry, Lacy has played 12 of a possible 14 games, while Bell has played in 11. Lacy is averaging 85.6 rushing yards per game compared to Bell’s 58.7 and his 4.1 yards per carry trump Bell’s average of 3.3.

As a rookie, Lacy has been the definition of a “workhorse.” The Packers put an emphasis on running the football this season and have leaned on Lacy even more since Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone Nov. 4 against the Chicago Bears, as Lacy has carried the ball 20 more more times in nine of the past 11 games. Bell has carried the ball 20 times just three times, while Bernard has yet to hit that mark in a game.

26

October

Eddie Lacy starts fast, stays cool

Eddie Lacy has been a shot of life to the Packers' ground game, but he's not much of a smack talker. He's just a guy who likes football. And cartoons.

Eddie Lacy has been a shot of life to the Packers’ ground game, but he’s not much of a smack talker. He’s just a guy who likes football. And cartoons.

Following Jermichael Finley’s neck injury suffered against the Cleveland Browns, the “Jermichael Finley and M.D. Jennings Show” on WDUZ-Green Bay needed a substitute for its bi-weekly host (Finley), who was released from the hospital Oct. 24.

In stepped left guard Josh Sitton–the host of last year’s show–which airs Wednesdays from Thornberry Creek at Oneida, and running back Eddie Lacy, Sitton’s guest.

The first segment of the show features “Rookie”–the show’s mediator/host/caller-of-shots–and the host. So my job as the intern/audio-board-guy allowed me to sit down and talk with Lacy for a good ten minutes.

And for me, as a college kid/intern/audio-board-guy it was really cool.

If you didn’t know he was the most valuable player of last year’s BCS National Championship and–in his first season–perhaps the biggest reason for the Green Bay Packers’ sixth-ranked running game, you’d think he was just a regular 20-something guy. Like me, but cooler.

I had a few things written down that I wanted to ask about: a) his love for cartoons, which was brought to my attention by Ty Dunne’s awesome piece about Lacy from this past summer, b) what it’s like to play in Wisconsin after playing in Louisiana through high school and Alabama in college, and of course c) the Alabama Crimson Tide, Lacy’s alma mater, which is currently ranked No. 1 in the country.

“I’ve won a lot,” Lacy laughed in reference to his not-too-shabby career to date. “Not bad.”

He’s averaging 100 yards per game in his last three starts and leads the 2013 draft class in rushing yards through seven weeks, but Lacy is just a guy off the field. Football isn’t even his favorite sport to watch.

We talked about Alabama’s dominance, for which he was a part of three National Championship teams in four seasons, but he said the only sport he “really watch(es) is basketball.” (He’s a Dallas Mavericks fan.)

“Yeah, I like Dirk man,” said Lacy, whose excitement for his favorite player (Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki) was displayed by a smile that forced his eyes shut. “It’s not even about athleticism, at all.”

7

September

Cory’s Corner: Eddie Lacy can jump start Packers’ offense

Eddie Lacy, Packers running back

Eddie Lacy could snap the Packers’ 43-game streak without a 100-yard running back, the longest active streak in the NFL.

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.

24

July

Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #1 — The Main Event

The Packers spent two draft picks on running backs, but could DuJuan Harris steal the starting job?

The Packers spent two draft picks on running backs, but could DuJuan Harris steal the starting job?

Quick. Think of a more anticipated Packers training-camp battle in recent years than this summer’s competition at running back. Good luck.

In 2012, the running back position saw a great deal of turnover. Desperate for a true feature back, the Packers opted to sign veteran Cedric Benson during the preseason. But Benson went down with a Lisfranc injury, opening the door for 2011 third-round pick Alex Green.

When Green failed to take full advantage of his opportunity, James Starks got a chance to prove his worth. Outside of a few nice runs, Starks was pretty average in his six regular-season appearances.

But late in the season, the team got a massive boost from journeyman DuJuan Harris. Just months after selling used cars in Florida, Harris was the feature back for the No. 3 seed in the NFC Playoffs.

In six games with the Packers between the regular season and the playoffs, Harris carried the ball 62 times for 257 yards, an average of 4.1 yards per carry. While not spectacular, that’s a sizable upgrade over Benson’s average of 3.5, Green’s 3.4 and Starks’s 3.6.

Harris also scored four touchdowns in those six games.

This will be his first offseason with the Packers, and he’ll face the stiffest competition at the position in recent memory. Leading up to this year’s draft, Eddie Lacy was considered by most to be the best running back available, possibly cracking the first round and Johnathan Franklin was thought to be a surefire second rounder before falling to the Packers in the fourth round.

The rookies have yet to show what they can do in full pads, but there’s certainly reason to be excited about both. Lacy provides the Packers with their most physical running back in some time, and Franklin appears to be a natural fit within the Packers’ fast-paced, spread offense.

Franklin joined us last month at Packers Talk Radio Network for an interview.

Prior to the draft, I considered Franklin to be the second-best running back in the draft, behind Giovani Bernard and just ahead of Lacy. Ultimately, teams were scared off by Franklin’s small frame and ball-security issues which were on display through his first three years at UCLA. But fresh off his senior season in which he racked up over 2,000 total yards, Franklin expected to hear his name called much earlier than he actually did.

15

June

Johnathan Franklin: Playing in Green Bay a “blessing”

Packers RB Johnathan Franklin

Packers RB Johnathan Franklin

The Green Bay Packers’ rookie class has yet to practice in full pads, but less than two months removed from the 2013 NFL Draft, fourth-round pick Johnathan Franklin already seems poised to have a long, successful career.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, a brain surgeon or the mayor of Los Angeles to figure out whether or not a guy “gets it.” And get it, Franklin does.

Growing up in south-central Los Angeles, ten of Franklin’s close acquaintances were shot in killed during his childhood, according to JSOnline.com. But Franklin beat the odds and went on to have a successful four-year run at UCLA.

After racking up over 2,000 total yards as a senior in 2012, Franklin expected to hear his name called early on draft day. But as the picks kept coming, Franklin kept waiting.

“It was a humbling experience for me,” Franklin said June 13 in an interview with Packers Talk Radio Network. “I was hearing probably late first round, early second round or perhaps third at the latest. On (Day 2) I had my family over, I had cameras there and I didn’t get drafted.”

Franklin’s draft-day fall wasn’t quite as dramatic as Aaron Rodgers’ in 2005; Rodgers was the last player in the green room after being mentioned as possible No. 1 overall pick, whereas Franklin watched the draft from L.A. But nonetheless, few foresaw Franklin dropping to the fourth round.

On Day 3 of the draft, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock spoke highly of Franklin, citing UCLA head coach Jim Mora’s high opinion of his former standout running back.

“For coaches, some (players) kind of hit your heart as well as your mind,” Mayock said. “And I could tell with Coach Mora, this was one of those kids that really resonated with him. I could tell him all day long, (Franklin) was going to go in the fourth or fifth round, and he was going to pound the table and say, ‘He’s better than that.’ Because he felt it.”

Still, Franklin feels fortunate to have landed where he did.

“Sometimes, God puts us in certain situations where we have to let go and just let him be in control,” Franklin said. “It was definitely a blessing. I ended up in a great place.”

10

May

Pigskin Paul Peruses Packers Picks

Packers NFL draft picksSo now all the guess work is over and the NFL Draft is in the books. As I write this most Packers rookies are showing up for their first taste of an NFL OTA.

And it is obvious that unless I am going to be totally oblivious of my readers’ desires, which is not a good thing at all, I am going to have to relent of my “no Draft Grades” stance, at least relative to the PACKERS and the rest of the NFC North.

So let’s start right at the top of the list with the team that is the clear choice as “America’s Team”, to the vast majority of my readers.

GREEN BAY PACKERS  2013 DRAFT ANALYSIS

 

ROUND 1, PICK 26        DATONE JONES        6’4/283        UCLA        4.80/40    32 3/4” ARMS    10” HANDS

JONES selection may have been a slight surprise to some, but his name had been surfacing in talk of the PACK’s Draft plan on a regular basis over the final weeks leading up to the Draft.  The team’s brain trust (THOMPSON&McCARTHY) clearly agreed in principle with a lot of the PACKERS fan base that the team needed more help for CLAY MATTHEWS in generating pressure on opposing QBs. Disrupting opposing backfields turned into a hobby for JONES last season under the new coaching staff at UCLA, led by veteran NFL Coach JIM MORA. He recorded 19 TFL and 6.5 Sacks in his final season for the BRUINS. He might be a bit light in the pants for an NFL 3-4 scheme, but he carries his current weight well and combines functional strength and quickness to keep from being engulfed by bigger OT. His 29 reps in the Bench Press at the COMBINE was impressive for his weight. He also shows solid hand work combining strength and quickness to keep blockers off balance. He had a very solid week of work in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. He excelled in practices and roamed the field effectively during the game. One would expect that DOM CAPERS will move JONES around and have him on the field even in his 2-man DL formations. He has experience all along the line and has more athleticism than the last guy the PACKERS selected to fill this role for them: MIKE NEAL. I would expect JONES and a healthy NICK PERRY to help CLAY MATTHEWS tremendously in the front 7 in 2013. Not a “special” player like MATTHEWS, but appears to be an excellent fit in the PACKERS schemes and should contribute right away as a Rookie.

5

May

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

With NFL draft now behind us, I’ve found myself asking one question about the Packers over the last week: Do the players Ted Thompson selected make the Packers a more physical team?

The answer I come up with is…maybe?

  • First-round pick Datone Jones is 6-foot-4, 280 pounds. When you see him play, you think long and lean instead of tough and mean. But a player’s height and weight doesn’t tell you much about how physical they’ll play. I’m sure Jones will add some weight. If he doesn’t, sometimes smaller guys play with such an attitude that they might as well be 320 pounds of brute force.
  • The first thing that comes to mind when I watch Eddie Lacy run is physical. You can automatically place Mr. Lacy in the immediately-makes-the-Packers-more-physical category. The catch with Lacy is his health. One of his big toes is fused on, he’s got screws in his hand, he can barely bench press because of an old pectoral injury and he’s had hamstring issues. It’s hard to help your team be more physical while riding an exercise bike on the sideline. Let’s hope Lacy is able to use his aggression on the field instead of in the team’s rehab facility.
  • J.C. Tretter and David Bakhtiari are two offensive linemen that were not projected to be drafted because of their physicality. The Packers like drafting athletic college tackles who can play multiple positions in the NFL, and that’s what Tretter and Bakhitiari are. I suppose they could develop into maulers, but neither one makes me think they’ll immediately make the Packers more physical.
  • When you think of being physical, do you think of riding a Jetski? Probably not, but that’s the nickname given to Packers fourth-round pick Jonathan Franklin because of his ability to leave defenders in his wake. Franklin does little to make the Packers more physical, but I don’t really care. You don’t draft speedy running backs to batter the other team. You draft them to run away from the other team once they are already battered.
  • Fifth-round pick Micah Hyde probably won’t get an opportunity to make the Packers more physical on an every-down basis, but he should get his shot on special teams. The Packers could always use more physicality on their special teams. Josh Boyd, the Packers other fifth-round pick, is 6-foot-3, 310 pounds. He at least possesses the measurements to make the Packers more physical.