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.

4

September

Despite Optimism, Evidence is Lacking that the Packers’ rushing attack will be Better in 2013

Eddie Lacy has people excited about the Packers running game. Is it irrational excitement?

Is it just me, or are people irrationally assuming that the Packers will be a better running team this season?

I just got done listening to Bill Simmons’ latest podcast. Simmons and Cousin Sal (Simmons’ sidekick) talked about NFL over/under win totals and highlighted the Packers improved running game as a possible reason for the team’s success this upcoming season. Sal even cited Jonathan Franklin as a reason for his optimism, even though Franklin has looked like a total bust so far.

It’s normal for national media figures to stick to talking points and get a little confused about specific players when doing massive preview shows that cover all 32 NFL teams.  But even locally and among Packers fans, the consensus seems to be that the Packers will go from being a horrible running team to at least a decent running team.

Why? What have we seen this preseason that has made us think that? I can’t think of much. Here’s what I have seen, and it’s not pretty:

  • The Packers averaged a measly 3.0 yards per carry in the preseason.
  • The Packers long rush was a 21-yard scramble by the now departed Vince Young, a quarterback.
  • Eddie Lacy, the presumed starter, averaged 2.0 yards per carry.
  • Bryan Bulaga, a key to the Packers run blocking up front, is out for the season.
  • DuJuan Harris is gone for the year, and Mike McCarthy sounded uncharacteristically depressed when talking about the injury.
  • This is still the Packers and McCarthy is still the coach. They’re going to want to pass, pass and pass some more.

Help me out here: What am I missing that others are seeing in predicting great things for the Packers on the ground this season?

Is all of the hope about a better running game centered on Lacy? That’s fair, I suppose. I’m excited about Lacy as well. But Lacy is also already banged up and could be one hit or awkward fall away from joining Harris on injured reserve.

Is all of the hope centered on just how awful the Packers were at running the ball in 2012? It’s not good when you’re leading rusher finishes with 464 yards, like Alex Green did last season.

31

July

Packers Stock Report: Too Early to Know Much of Anything Edition

It’s been a healthy start to training camp for Packers OLB NIck Perry.

It’s way too early to know much of anything about the 2013 Packers, but I can’t help myself. It’s time for this season’s first Packers stock report.

Here is who I see rising, falling and remaining steady on the Packers after only a few practices:

Rising

Datone Jones
Jones added 20 pounds since his pro day and it appears as if it didn’t come from drinking beer and eating cheese curds. Most reports of Jones have been glowing, and the rookie from UCLA has Packers fans drooling at the possibility of finally having a versatile 3-4 defensive lineman to take the place of Cullen Jenkins.

Micah Hyde
Mike McCarthy singled Hyde out for praise after the first practice and it sounds like the rookie from Iowa has been solid in other practices as well. With a number of cornerbacks out with injuries or illness, Hyde has gotten an opportunity to show what he can do. So far, itsounds like he’s taking advantage.

Nick Perry
There hasn’t necessarily been a ton of ooohhhs and aaahhhs about Perry’s play so far in camp, but it sounds like the defensive end turned outside linebacker is healthy and ready to restart his career after a season-ending wrist injury knocked him out for most of his rookie campaign. If Jones is as advertised and Perry bounces back and provides pressure on the quarterback opposite of Clay Matthews, this defense could get better in a hurry.

Steady

Randall Cobb
It’s typically rookies who end up in the rising category this early in the season. Everyone is impressed with the Packers’ shiny new toys. A strong camp is now expected from a player like Cobb, who is entering his third season and is the leading candidate to become the team’s top receiver after Greg Jennings’ departure. We haven’t heard too much about Cobb thus far — a good thing because it probably means that he looks fine and there’s nothing much to report.

Sam Shields
Didn’t it seem like yesterday when Shields was a converted receiver just learning to play cornerback? Now he’s talked about as the Packers’ most talented corner and playing for a big payday. McCarthy said Shields looks a little rusty after missing OTAs because of a contract dispute, but it sounds like he’s continuing to play more physical and improving.

8

May

DuJuan Harris Once Again a Forgotten Man.

Packers RB DuJuan Harris will surely be back with the Pack in 2013.

Packers RB DuJuan Harris – Forgotten Man?

It was only a month before the NFL draft that Mike McCarthy was singing the praises of DuJuan Harris:

“Oh he’s going to play for us next season. That’s his responsibility if he wants to be the starter…  Once he got ready, I felt great about the way DuJuan finished the season. Looking forward to having him for an offseason and look for good things for him.”

March was a good month for Harris. You couldn’t go two clicks of the mouse without finding a feature on Harris. JSOnline did a feature piece on him and what he was doing to prepare this offseason. Our own Adam Czech posed the question, “Real Deal or Flavor of the Month?”

And then the draft happened.

The Packers added not one, but two dynamic running backs in the first four rounds of the draft. Before a down has been played, Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin are already being described as the “Thunder and Lightning” tandem the Packers haven’t seen since Hornung and Taylor.

Rob Reischel of JSOnline.com wrote a fine piece the other day titled, “There’s a Storm Brewing in Packers Backfield.” It was a well-written and informative piece, but I had one problem with it; there wasn’t even a mention of DuJuan Harris. He’s suddenly the Rodney Dangerfield of the Packers’ backfield.

You have to feel for DuJuan Harris. If you’re reading articles here, you surely know his story. Undrafted free agent, cut by the Jaguars, cut by the Steelers, gets a job selling cars, seemingly forgotten by the NFL. Then Ted Thompson calls. He lands on the Packers’ practice squad and about five weeks later is signed to their roster and was a surprise contributor in December and January.

I was a big fan of Harris’ running style; a quick-hitting no-nonsense runner; something the Packers haven’t had in a while. I can’t say I was confident he was the “real deal” three-down running back Mike McCarthy has professed his desire for, but at the same time, I was excited to see how he develops next season.

Well now what? Does he even get a fair shot?

4

April

Packers Running Backs: James Starks or Brandon Saine?

Could Packers RB Brandon Saine be on the team over James Starks in 2013?

Could Packers RB Brandon Saine be on the team over James Starks in 2013?

I just recorded a podcast on the Packers running backs with my colleagues Jason Perone and Marques Eversoll. One of them, I can’t remember which, asked an interesting question: Will Brandon Saine make the Packers roster over James Starks?

Saine missed most of the 2012 season after blowing out his knee. He has 18 carries for 69 yards in his career and has contributed some on special teams.

Starks has missed all kinds of time with various injuries throughout his three-year career. When healthy, Starks shows just enough to get Packers fans excited before breaking/spraining/pulling/straining one of his limbs or muscles.

When this topic first came up, I thought it was a silly question. I didn’t think there was any way Saine could be on the team over Starks. But as the conversation carried on, I changed my mind.

Will Mike McCarthy have the patience to deal with Starks if he comes up lame yet again in training camp or the preseason? Will McCarthy even want to deal with the risk of Starks getting hurt again?

It sounds like McCarthy wants to find a back that can carry the load this season instead of always plugging in different players. Given Starks’ injury history, I’m not sure he meets the coach’s criteria.

Saine doesn’t fit that criteria either, but he can play special teams. Perhaps he also benefits a bit from lower expectations. Saine doesn’t need to be a bell-cow running back in order to earn a roster spot. If Starks isn’t running well, there’s not much else he brings to the table.

Of course, Saine is coming off a major injury himself, so this entire discussion could be moot if he’s limping around in training camp.

For some reason, there’s still a part of me that thinks Starks might have it in him and become the running back he was during the Super Bowl run. It might be the delusional part of me, but it’s still a part of me.

My money is still on Starks wearing a Packers jersey over Saine in 2013. That’s a major injury that Saine is coming back from.

What say you, fine readers of ALLGBP.com?

Perhaps none of this will matter if the Packers draft Eddie Lacy and he runs for 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns…

3

April

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Running Backs

Packers RB DuJuan Harris will surely be back with the Pack in 2013.

Packers RB DuJuan Harris will surely be back with the Pack in 2013.

As far as personnel, the Packers underwent more changes at running back than any other position. James Starks was the starter through training camp before the team signed Cedric Benson after the first preseason game. Injuries added up, allowing DuJuan Harris–a former used car salesman–to take over as the team’s feature back.

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects;

DuJuan Harris (UDFA, Signed as FA in 2012)
Alex Green (3rd round, 2011)
James Starks (6th round, 2010)
Brandon Saine (UDFA, 2011)
John Kuhn (UDFA, Signed as FA in 2007)

Listen to expanded coverage of this topic using the player below or download the podcast from the Packers Talk Radio Network on Itunes.

Listen to internet radio with Packers Talk Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio

Harris: For the 2012 Packers, DuJuan Harris (5-9 208) was a huge blessing in a small package. After starter Cedric Benson was lost for the season with a Lisfranc injury, and reserves Alex Green and James Starks both battled injuries of their own, the team turned to Harris to be the lead back. Harris played in a total of six games last season and recorded a team-high four rushing touchdowns.

Green: After Cedric Benson was lost for the season while James Starks was already out of the lineup, Alex Green was the next man up. Green broke off a season-long run of 41 yards later in the game Benson got hurt but never grabbed hold of the starting job. For the season, Green averaged just 3.4 yards per carry.

Starks: As the starter in the Packers’ first preseason game, James Starks turned in a disappointing performance. Before suffering a turf toe injury which would cause him to miss half of the season, Starks also lost a fumble. He returned to the lineup and became a key part of the backfield rotation during the middle of the season, but his roster spot for 2013 is far from assured.

Saine: The second-year back out of Ohio State didn’t carry the ball once in 2012, as he was lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL in week six against the Houston Texans. Saine has appeared in just 14 games the past two seasons, but he showed promise during 2011 in a limited role.

26

March

Packers RB DuJuan Harris: Real Deal or Flavor of the Month?

DuJuan Harris

Packers RB DuJuan Harris

Packers running back DuJuan Harris has been getting a lot of attention lately.

Here’s what Packers coach Mike McCarthy recently said about him:

“Oh, he’s going to play for us next season. That’s his responsibility if wants to be the starter….I wish we would have had DuJuan earlier. He was a young man that we were just getting ready to try to put in the game. Everybody’s like ‘Just put him in there.’”

Cheesehead TV co-founder and senior NFL video producer at Bleacher Report Aaron Nagler recently Tweeted this about Harris:

“Watching DuJuan Harris run the football is one of my favorite things.”

Tyler Dunne had a feature story on Harris at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Here’s an excerpt:

“The second-year pro from Troy finished as the Packers’ top back, rushing for 257 yards on 62 carries with four scores in six games. This off-season – as outside pressure mounts for Green Bay to land a bigger, durable, every-down back – Harris has hit the mute button.”

So, is Harris for real? Could a 5-foot-7 dude plucked from an auto dealership halfway through last season really be the Packers answer at running back?

Maybe.

Let’s look at why Harris might be the real deal, and why he might be just another flavor of the month.

Real Deal

  • Have you seen the guy run? Holy cow! Quick. Decisive. Explosive. Good vision. Strong. Moves forward. Packs a punch. Physical. You ask yourself why a guy like him was selling cars instead of ramming into NFL defenders.
  • His attitude. Go read that entire story from Dunne again. Harris sounds like a great guy who knows how the NFL operates and is ready to fight like hell for a starting job.
  • Who else is there? Sure, I suppose the Packers could draft a running back early, but do we really think Ted Thompson would spend a first-rounder on a running back? Never say never, but odds are the competition at running back will be between James Starks (yawn), Alex Green (yawn again), a lower-round pick (yawn some more) and Harris.

Flavor of the Month