Friday, March 21, 2014
Deep backfield possible with Starks' return
By Rob Demovsky
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- By re-signing running back James Starks to a two-year contract earlier this week, the Green Bay Packers brought back a capable runner who was good enough to start Super Bowl XLV.
It also ensured the Packers will have their deepest -- and most talented -- group of running backs perhaps since the combination of Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens shared the backfield in the mid-1990s.
In less than a year, it went from perhaps the thinnest position on offense -- if not the entire roster -- to one that should not be a concern for the foreseeable future.
As things stand today, the Packers have five running backs on their roster with NFL regular-season experience.
Here's a look at each one and what his role could be this season:
Eddie Lacy: The reigning offensive rookie of the year who rushed for a Packers' rookie record 1,178 yards last season, Lacy will be the workhorse back once again. In fact, he could be on the field even more than he was last season, when he played 60.5 percent of the offensive snaps. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said at last month's scouting combine that he wants Lacy to become a three-down back. Last season, he often gave way to fullback John Kuhn on third down.
James Starks: Once viewed as a potential starter, a long injury history reduced him to a complementary role -- one in which he excelled last season. He averaged a career-high 5.5 yards per carry in a role that likely will be repeated this season.
Johnathan Franklin: Other than a 103-yard performance in Week 3 against the Bengals, a game in which his fourth-quarter fumble was returned for the game-winning touchdown, the fourth-round pick last year did not make much of an impact before he was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 27 because of a neck injury.
DuJuan Harris: A year ago, Harris was the starter by default, having finished the 2012 season in that capacity. Even after the Packers drafted Lacy and Franklin, McCarthy had big plans for Harris until a knee injury ended his season in training camp. The quick, diminutive runner could be the perfect complementary back to the power running of Lacy and Starks.
Michael Hill: Spent two weeks on the Packers’ roster last season and then was back on the practice squad when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him to their roster on Nov. 13. He finished the season with the Bucs but was re-signed by the Packers last month. He carried nine times for 23 yards in Tampa.