Sunday, July 20, 2014

2014 Green Bay Packers by Position: Running Backs

Written By: Kyle Engman (@KyleEngmanNFL)

The last time the Packers had a dominant rushing force, George Bush was President, the number one music single of the year was “In Da Club” by 50 Cent, and my mom was still making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my school lunch.  But last season, the Packers amassed the most total rushing yards in a season since 2003.

Despite the hope that Green Bay might be on the brink of a potent ground force, they suffered a setback this offseason. The loss of sophomore running back, Johnathan Franklin, is more important than many people may realize.  In the wake of Eddie Lacy’s injury earlier in the year, Franklin earned his chance to show off his skills.  They did not disappoint.  Franklin’s first game was in the third week against the Bengals, in which he ran for 103 yards.  Unfortunately, the neck injury he suffered against the Vikings in the latter of the season, would end his career.  The Packers definitely will miss out on a lot of potential from losing Franklin, but they’re not down and out quite yet.

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Former Alabama back, Eddie Lacy, is returning to Green Bay for his second year in the NFL.  Lacy is the clear cut leader of the Titletown running backs after starting 15 games in his rookie season as well as being voted to the Pro Bowl and to an Offensive Rookie of the Year award.  Even with the Packers crippled from an Aaron Rodgers injury, Lacy was a season long highlight reel.  Rodgers and Lacy played just six games together last season. If both stay healthy this season they’ll benefit greatly from one another's presence on the field and could possibly put up bigger numbers than last year.

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Veteran running back James Starks is also returning to Lambeau for his fifth year.  Starks provides a level of security at the running back position.  While he may not be durable enough to provide 20+ carries in multiple games in the event that Lacy were to be injured, he’s a great situational back.  An abnormally tall back at 6’2”, Starks has an upright run style that allows him to have a better view downfield allowing him to make adjustments.  Starks also has the ability to be a pass catching back, and works hard at grabbing passes out of the backfield.  If Starks wants to mold himself into a reliable backup he'll need to work on his blitz pickup and pass blocking.

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Mike Roemer
After going undrafted, being cut by two teams, and spending a week as a car salesman, DuJuan Harris is finally going to get a chance to play.  Harris was on track to challenge for the starting running back role over Eddie Lacy early in the preseason last year but was hindered for the remainder of the 2013 season because of a ruptured patellar tendon.  During OTA’s, Head Coach Mike McCarthy commented on Harris’s status saying that he looked like he was back to full strength.  Harris is one of the fastest backs on the team but his previous injury may have taken away any explosiveness he had.  If he’s still the same back, expect him to challenge James Starks for a backup role.

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Michael Hill returns to the Packers after being signed off of the Packer’s practice squad midway through last season and playing in six games for the Buccaneers.  Hill played college football for Missouri Western and started all four years there including an incredible 2012 campaign where he racked up 2,168 rushing yards, 16 rushing touchdowns, and an astonishing 6.9 YPC average.  Although not a large running back like Lacy, Hill demonstrates above average lower body strength and runs like a power back.  Hill will most likely be signed to the practice squad depending upon his preseason performances.

Undrafted rookies LaDarius Perkins and Rajion Neal also joined the Green Bay running back core following the draft.

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