When James Starks took a handoff, shed two defenders, powered his way through another, and reached for a 17-yard touchdown against the Saints in last season’s opening game, it looked like the Packers were set at running back.
That run was exactly what the Packers were hoping to get from Starks. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t breathtaking. It was the offensive line creating a hole, Starks making a decisive cut, exploding through the hole, shaking off tackles and plowing his way for extra yards.
Unfortunately, that was one of the few decisive and explosive moments for Starks last season. It was his only touchdown run and there weren’t any other memorable runs the rest of the way.
Bothered by knee and ankle injuries, Starks looked tentative. He didn’t look like an ascending young running back ready to seize the long-term starting job on a perennial Super-Bowl contender.
Instead of the second-coming of Dorsey Levans or Ahman Green, Starks morphed into the only Packers offensive player to have a disappointing 2011 season.
Nontheless, Starks appears to be the front-runner to get the starting job in 2012.
Green might pose a challenge, but coming off a major knee injury, it’s hard to envision the second-year player from Hawaii rising that quickly.
Green, a third-round pick, was starting to see his role increase when he blew out his knee in late October against the Vikings. If Green comes back healthy and ready to contribute, he’s an all-around back with the explosiveness to rip off a long run or take a dump-off pass all the way to the end zone every now and then.
Whereas Starks is more of a one-cut and move the chains type of runner, Green has more big-play ability. At least that’s what Green’s college film tells us. We only had three carries to judge his pro career.
Lurking in the background is Saine, an undrafted rookie from Ohio St. who looked decent taking occasional swing passes from Aaron Rodgers and charging full-speed ahead.
When Saine built a head of steam, he didn’t look like an undrafted rookie. He actually looked pretty good.
Teach this kid some fundamentals and how to pass block and you never know what he might turn out to be.