James Starks runs for a second half touchdown against the Washington Redskins last season. Brian Jopek photograph

The Green Bay Packers still need James Starks

James Starks: Is he the player the Packers could trade away? Raymond T. Rivard photograph

James Starks: He’s a player the Packers need the rest of 2013. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

The Green Bay Packers running game has made the comeback everyone expected and the bulk of that revival has come off the legs of the unexpected – James Starks.

When the Packers used two of their draft picks on Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin back in April, the fever pitch reached an all-time high – everyone expected that the Packers running game would be vastly improved because of the addition of these two young guys.

While that has come to fruition, it’s been the play of Starks – the guy who was on the trading block last spring and buried at the bottom of the depth chart at the start of training camp – that has raised the running game bar in Titletown. When Lacy went down with a concussion in week two, just as everyone was expecting him to have a breakout game, it was Starks in reserve who broke out for 132 yards in the route over the Redskins.

And he wasn’t done.

JamesStarksWebStarks added another 50 yards in the first half of game three at Cincinnati before he went down with a leg injury – paving the way for the emergence of rookie  Franklin, who broke out for 103 yards in a single half of play.

Now that the Packers have both Lacy and Franklin set to be featured this Sunday in the Packers backfield, we finally have the “Thunder and Lightning” that we all anticipated on draft weekend back in April.

That’s a good thing and should make for a great story line, but there’s one thing for sure – the Packers still need Starks’ presence. You know as well as I do that the rookies are going to get dinged and unless the Packers bring back the likes of Alex Green or miraculously change the rules and get DuJuan Harris healed up, the team is going to need to have that backup who can hit the field without a drop-off in talent.

Of course, the question is whether Starks can get healed up himself and stay that way the rest of the year. There are many who are saying that Starks should be gone – that his injury-prone career has been more disappointment than success for the Packers.

While the Packers will have to look closely at whether to keep Starks at the end of this season, team officials are going to have to live with their decision to keep Starks on the roster this season.

When he’s healthy, there’s nobody better. That’s why the Packers need him yet this season – they need him to spell the rookies; they need his experience; they need his skill.

But he needs to stay healthy to make that happen.

Yes, the Packers still need James Starks – and I wouldn’t count him out.

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