Friday, April 26, 2013
Eddie Lacy: A new flavor for Packers
By Kevin Seifert
Alabama running back Eddie Lacy adds a new dimension to Green Bay's running game.
The smell test failed every time. It was always difficult to imagine the Green Bay Packers selecting Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, or any other player at his position, in the first round of the 2013 draft. The running game simply doesn't carry that kind of value in the Packers' offense.
But in the second round? After a trade that dropped the Packers another six spots to the penultimate choice of the round?
The Packers ranked No. 26 last season in average yards per rush after contact (1.5 yards), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Newcomer DuJuan Harris created some excitement at the end of last season with his frenetic style, but it should tell you something about a team's commitment to building a position that a player was able to walk off the street in midseason, join the practice squad, be promoted to the active roster in Week 13 and earn a starting job by Week 14.
The Packers could add a new layer to their offense if they use Lacy the way Alabama did. Almost two-thirds of his rushing attempts went between the tackles, and he averaged 7.6 yards per carry on those plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
There are those who might attribute an inordinate amount of Lacy's success to Alabama's dominant offensive line, one that included a pair of 2013 first-round draft picks, guard Chance Warmack and tackle D.J. Fluker. Indeed, Lacy averaged 4.2 yards before contact last season and made it at least five yards past the line of scrimmage before being touched on nearly 36 percent of his rushes.
Running Inside the Tackles
Comparing Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy in their final seasons at Alabama:
Yds per rush
20+ yd rush
>>8.7 with 7 or fewer defenders in box
Source: ESPN Stats & Information
But as the chart shows, Lacy was more productive on those inside runs than former Alabama tailback Trent Richardson was in the same situation during the 2011 season. Richardson, of course, went No. 3 overall to the Cleveland Browns in the 2012 draft.
"You watch the film, and he rarely goes down with one guy trying to tackle him," Packers director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst told Green Bay reporters. "More guys have to tackle him. He kind of has to be gang-tackled. That’s intriguing, as well."
Alabama's offensive line might have had something to do with Lacy falling to the bottom of the second round. The more likely reason, however, was an offseason hamstring injury that limited him during pre-draft workouts. He reportedly wasn't in top shape for his makeshift pro day earlier this month, and his 40-yard dash times of 4.59 and 4.62 that day excited no one.
Gutekunst expressed no concern over Lacy's physical condition, however, calling the pro day workout "part of the process." Lacy said: "I wasn't 100 percent, but I decided to try it anyway."
Lacy has plenty of time to recover before the start of training camp in July. When he does, the Packers will have what Gutekunst called "a little bit different [player] than we've had maybe in the past."
I don't anticipate the Packers offense changing much with Lacy joining Harris, James Starks, Alex Green and John Kuhn in the backfield. This offense and scheme will always revolve around Rodgers and the passing game. (As it should, by the way.)
What his arrival should do, however, is make the Packers more versatile and ultimately better. They now have their best option in years for times that call for tough yards or running out the clock or simply wearing down a defense. He won't be as exciting as a half-dozen other skill players on the Packers' roster, but every flash needs a grind and every slash needs a pound. Or something like that.