The importance of being Eddie Lacy


Eddie Lacy

Special to by Michael Pina

Since 2009, the season after Aaron Rodgers replaced Brett Favre as quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, no offense in football (outside of New England) has been more outrageously dominant.

That year, Football Outsiders pegged them as the third best offense in football, with the second best rushing attack. They dropped three spots overall the following season, but were still one of the league’s 10 best teams at running the ball.

In 2011, the year they went 15-1 before being bit by the injury bug later on in the season, only the New Orleans Saints had a more potent offense, and just six teams were more effective running the ball. Last year their rushing attack fell off a table, coming in at 13th in the league. (Overall, they stood pat at fourth.)

Ted Thompson responded by drafting two tackles and two half backs with his first five draft picks. With James Jones and Randall Cobb hobbled by injury (Cobb’s being a serious one), that fortuitous line of thinking now functions as a life raft for Rodgers’ prime and Green Bay’s season.

The second pick was Eddie Lacy (who Thompson acquired after trading six spots down with the San Francisco 49ers), a bruising lug from the University of Alabama who’s currently tasked with an inordinate amount of responsibility. Since being concussed against the Washington Redskins in Week 2, few running backs in the league have been better.

As a result, through six weeks (and five games) of the 2013 season, Green Bay’s overall offense ranks second. Their rushing offense? Third. Old pal James Starks hopped in a DeLorean for four quarters against Washington, but on the whole, Lacy’s the one captaining this backfield. His value per play ranks seventh in the league among all running backs (again, per Football Outsiders), ahead of Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, Frank Gore, Reggie Bush, and Adrian Peterson.

On the first play of Green Bay’s impressive road victory over the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday, Lacy wasted no time letting the defending Super Bowl champions know Rodgers may not have been their biggest concern.

Lined up as the only man in Green Bay’s backfield, the 22-year-old took the handoff and immediately disappeared in the trenches (tough to do for someone who weighs 230-plus pounds), spun off Packers left guard Josh Sitton, and raced in a perfect north-south line 10 yards up the field for a first down.

The Packers were in a three wide receiver set, but the Ravens still had eight in the box. It didn’t matter. As it’d turn out, nothing would matter on the day, with Lacy—in the fourth game of his career—gaining 125 yards from scrimmage on 23 rushing attempts and one reception.

One play later things got even worse. Moments after the ball was snapped, tight end Jermichael Finley (who might be a better blocker than receiver at this point) caught just enough of Terrell Suggs on a wham block to free Lacy through a hole sized more appropriately for a Dodge Durango than a human being.

Green Bay’s offensive line was perfect on this play, with each guy getting to the left of their assignment, creating an unmovable wall of mustard-pants wearing men.

Rodgers remains his team’s most important player (by a very wide margin), and one of the most treacherous cannon-armed weapons all defenses have to face today. But thanks to numerous crippling injuries, including several to Rodgers’ necessary wide receiver crew, the team is desperate for a new dimension on offense if they want to reach their ultimate goal: a Super Bowl appearance.

Michael Pina is a writer for ESPN’s TrueHoop Network. He also writes for ScoreBig. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelVPina.