Green Bay Packers run game flying under the radar


Ted Thompson hit a home run with Eddie Lacy, a hard-nosed runner who has given the team a new dimension.

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

One might ask if the Green Bay Packers are a day late and a dollar short when it comes to the running game – especially in light of a recent post by NFL.Com’s Bucky Brooks where he talks about the five best running back tandems in the NFL.

There’s no question the importance of the run game in today’s pass-happy NFL has been devalued the past few years. Nobody is taking running backs in the first round anymore, games are being won on the arms of quarterbacks and not from the feet of running backs – the entire culture of the NFL seems to be moving away from the ground game.

James Starks came on in relief and put up impressive numbers for the Packers in 2013. He has re-signed with the Packers.

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Well, there is some truth to that, but it doesn’t imply that in five years there will be no rushing attack on NFL fields.

That said, it seems the Packers’ newly-revitalized run game seems to right in step with what’s happening league-wide – using running backs by committee.

Brooks takes a look at what he feels are the top five running back tandems in the league – but three of the five teams on his list just recently added running backs through free agency. Three of the five teams he lists as his “best” haven’t even played a down in the league yet.

Nowhere on this list is the Green Bay Packers, who not only have Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy (more than 1,100 yards in 2013), but they also re-signed James Starks (nearly 500 yards and a 5.5-yard average). We also have to include DuJuan Harris (who was slated as the starter last year, but missed the season because of injury) and Johnathan Franklin (a speedster who showed plenty of promise last season before getting injured).

One can’t argue with Brooks that three of the teams on his “best of” list include the Philadelphia Eagles (LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles); New York Jets (Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory); and San Diego Chargers (Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Donald Brown). Those are some pretty established names.

Those teams will be stacked at the position, but one might question how that will go. Will the established players who have had the majority of carries in the past have a difficult time sharing the load? The teams’ established runners will see less production and more competition. How will that go over?

We’ll have to wait and see.

But one thing is for certain – it’s great to see the Packers once again flying under the radar. Here they sit with running backs who have already worked within the “backfield by committee” philosophy and know what to expect come the regular season. The teams mentioned by Brooks have new bodies and will have a growing period to figure out how best to utilize those players.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

He says nothing about the Packers.

And that’s OK. Green Bay and the players on the team seem to understand that they are not always going to be mentioned in the first breath among those as “the best” at particular positions – unless they’re talking about Aaron Rodgers.

Watching from afar, it’s OK with me that the bar for these other teams is raised and the expectations heightened. While we all have huge expectations for the Packers’ run game, as Packers fans, that’s obvious. But it’s OK that those around the league don’t recognize the Packers’ run game at this point.

When the Packers once again use their running game in 2014 to help take pressure off of Aaron Rodgers, the ends will justify the means.

The Packers don’t need to be on Brooks’s list.

Lacy, Starks, Harris, Franklin – and even John Kuuuuuhhhhhn – will do just fine without the hoopla.