Sep 20, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers running backJames Starks
(44) is tracked down by Seattle Seahawks middle linebackerBobby Wagner
(54) during the second half at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
Early in the first half, the Packers got some lucky breaks.
They got 13 points in the half — including 10 stemming from the two free plays — and were able to hold Seattle to only three while shutting down their run game almost entirely.
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses, however.
On an early carry, Eddie Lacy went down with an ankle injury; it ended up being bad enough that despite heavy taping he was unable to get himself back in the game at all.
Things weren’t looking promising once it was clear he wouldn’t return. We knew at some point Wilson would start making plays and the defense would give up some points; if Lacy was done, the run game would assuredly suffer.
Enter James Starks.
We may all not remember this (or more likely just want to forget it due to the circumstances it came with), but Starks actually was our starter a few years ago. He had some good moments in that spot — especially as the head of the run game during the Super Bowl run in 2010 — but for most of the time where he was looked at as the starter was when the running game was a mess.
That can’t all be put on him (he was injury-prone earlier in his career — something that played into him only becoming a starter late in that Super Bowl season), but it brings up memories of how unbalanced this team used to be on offense before the arrival of Eddie Lacy.
Since Lacy got here, Starks has been nothing but professional, taking his backup role in full swing while also finally remaining healthy. He’s been able to be a guy worth counting on to give Lacy a breather while pounding and slashing through the defenses himself, and being a guy we could possibly rely on should anything happen to Lacy that keeps him off the field.
Of course, that is an outcome we would probably prefer stays in the realm of hypotheticals, but of course that is the reality Green Bay found itself faced with early in this matchup.
Starks stepped up big time and slowly quelled those fears.
Though he had a fumble that could have damaged Green Bay’s chances, outside of that he was excellent.
On the night, Starks ran the ball 20 times and accumulated 95 yards. There was some excellent blocking for him, but many of these carries went straight into the teeth of the defense and saw Starks breaking tackles left and right to secure yardage. When things were tensing up after Seattle grabbed the lead at 17-13, Starks wasted no time in busting off a 35-yarder to kick off a drive that garnered a field goal.
His ability to add power and balance to the offense in the absence of Lacy cannot truly be quantified purely in numbers however.
He worked well as a dumpoff target for Rodgers, grabbing 4 passes to bail the quarterback out when the rush was on him. His rushes provided balance to a unit that could have been forced into being one-dimensional if he wasn’t productive. He was also how the Packers could effectively salt away tons of time towards the end, effectively nullifying any hope of another comeback attempt.
Should Lacy’s injury end up keeping him out for an extended period, that obviously won’t be great.
But if it does, Starks appears to be a willing and able contributor that we can trust in his stead.
Next: The Offensive Line