Green Bay Packers running back James Starks rushes the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports photograph

The Green Bay Packers could have the best offensive backfield in the league


 

With the re-signing of running back James Starks, the Green Bay Packers are continuing on in a direction that one year ago we may never have thought possible – continuing to improve the run game.

And by bringing Starks back into the family, the Packers have solidified what could be the best and deepest position on the team – in fact, this may be the best backfield in the league.

Led by Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy, and complemented last season by the durability (in comparison to past years) of Starks, the Packers pounded out nearly 1,700 yards on the ground in 2013. Throw in the Cincinnati game when Johnathan Franklin subbed for the injured Starks and picked up more than 100 yards in a single half and the Packers were around 1,800 yards on the ground.

As a team when it was all said and done, Green Bay finished with 2,136 rushing yards in 2013, good enough for a seventh ranking in the league .

The addition of DuJuan Harris will give the Packers one of the deepest and most diverse running games in the league. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

That’s been unheard of in these parts over the past few decades … and it was done without DuJuan Harris who was penciled in at the start of the 2013 training camp as the team’s starter. Throw Harris into the mix and the Packers have the makings of the most diverse and intriguing set of backs in all of football.

Yes, the Vikings have Adrian Peterson, the Lions have Reggie Bush and the Bears have Matt Forte … but none of these teams have the depth and diversity that the Packers now have in their backfield.

The question will be whether the Packers will keep all of these backs. Will there be enough room on the roster and if so, how do they utilize the talents of all four? Lacy has become the three-down back the Packers have been searching for since Ahman Green retired, but the Packers did an excellent job of utilizing Starks last season in a spot rotation system that provided him with nearly 90 carries. His effectiveness was clear and he picked his spots well, averaging well over 5 yards per carry when given the chance.

Starks had some timely performances that helped the team to some important wins last season. Remember when he ran for 132 yards against the Washington Redskins when Lacy went down after his first run from scrimmage with a concussion? That was Starks’ breakout game.

Starks also broke runs for 40 yards five other times; six runs were for more than 20 yards. He also turned in an 88-yard performance in the Packers season finale against the Chicago Bears. We tend to forget his importance in that particular game.

But the Packers haven’t forgotten his importance. In fact, the team’s efforts to re-sign him clearly underscores how important they feel he is for the team’s offense.

Packers’ 1-2 Punch:

Lacy and Starks in 2013

Eddie Lacy James Starks
Att 284 89
Yards 1,178 493
Avg. 4.1 5.5
TDs 11 3
Missed Tackles 61 22
Yards/Contact 2.3 3.0

Source: Pro Football Focus

The only drawback to Starks has been his injury history, but that’s another reason why the Packers should carry at least three and possibly all four of these backs on the roster. A few years ago, the Packers carried four and five tight ends, so it’s possible the Packers could lighten the load at that position and shift it to running backs.

As the Packers go through OTAs and head into training camp this summer, all eyes will be on the competition at the position. While Lacy will be the clearcut choice as

Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

the starter, the other three will certainly amp up their games in the battle for the backup spot. Starks and Harris will have the upper hand, but there’s no counting out Franklin, who struggled at times his rookie season, but showed enough promise to be in the mix as well.

Going from famine to feast at the running back position the past 12 months has been by design. The Packers understand that Aaron Rodgers cannot carry the full load – though his absence from the lineup in 2013 showed that the running game alone cannot carry the team either. But in tandem – with Rodgers healthy and a full stable of running backs – this offense could become what we have all hoped for the past few years. We know what the passing game can do, but with a solid running game and the best QB in the game – watch out.

2014 might be the best Packers offensive team in many years. If these running backs keep the chains moving, it will open up the field for Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Jarrett Boykin.

Re-signing Starks might be one of the best moves yet by Ted Thompson in this offseason. In one fell swoop, he brought back a valuable player who has helped the team win in the past, while bolstering what is becoming the team’s focal point – the running backs position.

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Tags: Green Bay Packers James Starks Packers Run Game

  • Don Andrew Halvorson

    Franklin in Cincinnati was a great game.

  • Ross

    They don’t have the best backfield. Not even close. Vikings is better with AP and they dont need anyone else. Bengals is better with Bernard and Green-Ellis. New England’s is better with Ridley and Blount and Vereen. There are more. Green Bay’s is good but not the best.

    • Mike Brand

      you do know that lacy was ranked 7th in the nfl in rushing right? you do know he is a rookie right? next time where your helmet before you post lol

      • Ross

        You do know that there were 9 other teams with more combined yards and touchdowns out of their running backs than Lacy and Starks. I’m not counting Franklin cause he played literally one game. So by the stats…that makes them the 10th best backfield in the league? I mean if you wanna be a stat guy….go put on your helmet now. It is possible to be a fan without being delusional.

        • Mike Brand

          im going by total yards by one back lacy was 7th in the nfl and is only gonna get better this year

          • Ross

            Ok….the article is about best BACKFIELDS not single backs. Yes Lacy may be one of the best backs but Starks is little more than a serviceable role player. Oft injured and often ineffective. That doesn’t make the best backfield in the NFL. Read the article man.

    • RyansDad

      I think the facts support the contention that the Packers may well have the best backfield in pro football. The Vikings? They had two excellent backs – now they have one. And wouldn’t the QB be considered a member of the backfield? Sad to say, the Vikes &Bears will be fighting for last place in the NFC North.

  • Dave Skinner

    …Hold on everybody …Ross…says your wrong Ross …shhh.. He would know even though wording is
    COULD Be

  • Jack_Gallant

    The Packers should draft another running back. A back with break away speed and make them miss agility. Then people can write about an elite backfield.

    • Ross

      Yeah they can be the first team ever to use a 5 back system. Good plan bud.

  • Jerico Biermann

    The forecast is Lighting and Thunder

  • Mike Brand

    ok here is what i think about it.starks is a good back up rb but if something should happen to eddie lacy like in game 1 and he has to miss the season starks has proven he can not stay healthy as a starting rb. this is why they really have to take the time and get franklin, harris, and hill up to speed. we all know starks is one play away from missing numerous games. the only reaso he held up last year was he only took like 10 snaps per game while lacy took the rest.

  • Peter Maiz

    I like Starks and hope he remains healthy. He may be the perfect complement for Lacy and extend Lacy’s career by a couple of years. Still Green Bay can’t count on winning the big games without a rock solid defense. It takes two to tango so, whereas the offense will be well balanced and a threat, the defense needs to limit opposing offenses. Otherwise, it’s a 50/50 proposition as to where Green Bay will end up.