Thursday, August 1, 2013
Little sorted out yet in Packers' backfield
By Rob Demovsky
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- From day to day, sometimes even from practice drill to practice drill, a different running back has lined up with the Green Bay Packers’ starters.
A week into training camp, it’s nearly impossible to tell who falls where on the depth chart.
Second-round pick Eddie Lacy is one of four running backs jockeying on the Packers' depth chart.
It’s no knock against the two backs general manager Ted Thompson drafted in April, when he took Alabama’s Eddie Lacy in the second round and UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin in the fourth. Anyone who watched Lacy power through defenders during Thursday’s goal-line period or has seen Franklin's quickness slice through the secondary can tell they’re off to a strong start.
But it also would be wrong to discount returning veterans Alex Green and James Starks, who combined to start six games last season but struggled with productivity and injuries.
Green, who is 21 months removed from tearing up his knee while blocking on a kickoff return against the Minnesota Vikings in 2011, has shown some of the burst he displayed during his college days in Hawaii’s fast-paced offense.
Meanwhile, Starks -- who has battled shoulder, hamstring, ankle, toe and knee injuries in his three NFL seasons -- is starting to look like the power back who rushed for 123 yards in the 2010 wildcard playoff win at Philadelphia that began the run to Super Bowl XLV.
The strong early showings by Green and Starks make it worth wondering if there’s room on the Packers’ 53-man roster for all four halfbacks?
“Hopefully in the four games of the preseason, we’ll have those questions answered,” Packers running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said Thursday. “It is definitely a competitive room.”
And that doesn’t even include DuJuan Harris, the late-season sensation who started both playoff games last season. The former practice-squad back has yet to pass his physical because of an offseason knee injury.
“It’s training camp; it’s going to be competitive,” Starks said. “They brought the new guys in there to get some spark. It’s fun.”
Starks was limited to just six games last season, while Green appeared in 12 but experienced soreness in his surgically repaired knee as the season went on.
Van Pelt called Starks’ camp so far “outstanding” and said the 6-foot-2, 218-pound fourth-year pro is running “extremely hard, violent.” He noted that Starks is making better reads and has been more patient on the outside zone runs, where the back needs to stretch the defense before making a cut. It’s a play coach Mike McCarthy often calls.
Regarding Green, Van Pelt said he looks “night and day” compared to last year and is cutting better and running faster.