David Bakhtiari. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph
The Green Bay Packers enter the 2013 season with four offensive rookies on their active roster. Ted Thompson and company drafted two productive collegiate running backs in this year’s draft and brought in some young talent on the offensive line. Not to mention a couple of rookie wide receivers stashed on the practice.
So what can we realistically expect from these rookies on offense this season?
The Packers will open the season with at least two rookie starters on offense. The preseason gave us a glimpse at what these rookies have to offer, but we won’t really know what these players are made of until we’re well into the rigors of the NFL season.
Let’s take a look at each offensive rookie on the Packers roster and see if we can figure out what to expect from them this season.
Eddie Lacy. Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports photograph
There is no doubt Lacy will be the Packers featured back going into this season, but the question remains how much the Packers will commit to the run this year. Lacy certainly possesses the durability to handle a full load of carries out of the backfield. Since his early days at Alabama, Lacy has dealt with a succession of injuries. But whether it be turf toe or a broken hand, Lacy has always managed to find a way to stay in the lineup and remain productive.
Lacy is a tough back, to say the least. And his physical running style and ability to withstand hits are some of his best attributes as a runner. But Lacy’s ability as back doesn’t end there. Surprisingly, Lacy has quick feet for a back that exceeds the 230-pound mark, and he has a deadly spin move that can make guys miss in the open field.
If Lacy can stay healthy and be a consistent presence in the Packers’ backfield, he has the potential of impacting all phases of the game for Green Bay. He can convert the tough short yardage on 3-and-1 or near the goal line. Something the Packers have struggled with the past few seasons. Lacy is also an effective between-the-tackles runner that knows how to be patient and hit the holes in the line when they open up.
Lacy may not exceed 1,000 yards this year as a rookie or near the century mark in every game, but he doesn’t have to. This is still Aaron Rodgers‘ offense and the Packers will still run a lot of no huddle and spread offense, but Lacy can be an effective back out of the shotgun and single back formations. Lacy also held up adequately in picking up the blitz, which bodes well for his chances of staying on the field on all three downs.
It’s too early to determine what Lacy’s production on the field will be this season. He’ll face last year’s second-ranked rush defense (PIT), fourth-ranked rush defense (SF), fifth-ranked rush defense (WAS), and eighth-ranked rush defense (CHI). It won’t be an easy road for the rookie back, but if the Packers offensive line can open up some holes for him, Lacy should run effectively enough to earn the defense’s respect and alleviate some of the pressure off of Rodgers and the passing game.
David Bakhtiari. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Out of all the Packers’ rookies, Bakhtiari will face the most difficult task this season. The fourth-round pick will start at left tackle and try to fill the shoes of well-established veteran Bryan Bulaga who is now on injured reserve. A lot rests on the rookie lineman’s shoulders. The Packers were already looking to improve on a league-worst 51 sacks allowed in 2012.
Each and every week Bakhtiari will be responsible for protecting Rodgers from the opponent’s top pass rusher. The rookie tackle will face off against some of the league’s elite pass rushers this season. Aldon Smith in week one. Michael Johnson in week three. Jason Pierre-Paul in week 11 and DeMarcus Ware in week 15. Not to mention Jared Allen and Julius Peppers each twice this year. A difficult challenge for even the most seasoned offensive linemen.
Bakhtiari will have his hands full this season, and he’ll have to learn fast. The Packers can’t afford for him to play like a rookie. Bakhtiari had a decent preseason. He only give up one sack and played admirably for a rookie offensive lineman thrown in the starting lineup, but Bakhtiari still has a ways to go as a run blocker. Bakhtiari may have his share of struggles this season considering the level of competition he’ll face, but with his natural ability as a pass protector, he could exceed our expectations this season.
Franklin had a disappointing preseason after having a good start to training camp. The fourth-round back was relatively quiet throughout August as he worked his way through the Packers playbook and adjusted to the speed of the NFL. Franklin may not see the field very much this season, especially early on. James Starks should get some snaps behind Lacy as the team’s second back, and it appears John Kuhn will continue being the team’s third-down back this season.
Johnathan Franklin. John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Franklin may be kept on the roster more for his potential down the road than what he can contribute this season, but still, with only three running backs on the roster, Franklin will more than likely see the field at some point, especially if either Lacy or Starks miss time because of injuries.
If Franklin can improve his pass protection than he’ll get more looks on third down and in the no huddle. He still has a lot of ability as a receiver out of the backfield and can make things happen in the open field. Franklin’s development will take some patience. In the mean time, he’ll contribute on special teams as a gunner and reserve kick returner.
Taylor is the eighth offensive lineman on the Packers depth chart. He has the strength to be an effective run blocker, but he’s still raw as a pass blocker. It would take a rash of injuries on the interior of the Packers’ line for Taylor to see the field this season. The undrafted rookie lineman will be more of a developmental player this season.
The Packers also have rookie offensive lineman JC Tretter on the PUP list and rookie wide receivers Charles Johnson and Myles White on the practice squad. Tretter may factor in later in the season if he can return healthy and be activated on the team’s roster after week six. Johnson and White provide some young depth at receiver.
Tomorrow we will take a look at the Packers’ defensive rookies.