* = starter; + = roster spot
* Eddie Lacy
+ James Starks
+ Brandon Burks
+ Aaron Ripkowski
Lacy had a pretty awful 2015. He continued his yearly tradition of starting slow, but this time never really found a consistent gear, leading him to lose his starting job while posting career lows in rushing yardage (758) and TDs (5). His weight was a constant topic of ridicule, and he kept getting himself trapped in the doghouse with the coaches, including getting himself benched before the “Hail Mary” game versus the Lions which saved the season.
Immediately following the season, he began working on throwing that awful year into the abyss in a big way. He worked with P90X founder Tony Horton and (based on the photos) appears to have improved his weight dramatically, and it already looks like it’s helping; in the preseason so far, he has racked up 114 yards on 20 carries with 1 TD. Expect him to come out and try to start strong and completely turn around how we think of him.
Behind Lacy, Starks is set to yet again be a strong #2 back who can do well in spot #1 duties if necessary. His ability to slash through a defense continues to be a great compliment to the pounding a healthy Lacy provides.
Looking towards the fullback spot, the team finally moved on from long-time fan favorite John Kuhn at fullback; his replacement is likely the young Ripkowski, especially since the Packers used a draft pick on him last year. He doesn’t have the knowledge of the system that a player like Kuhn would, but he does bring a combination of youth, size, and ability that Kuhn likely could no longer be expected to compete with. Squirewell was brought in as another young guy to compete with Ripkowski, but despite the awesome name he’s probably just a warm body.
There was only one spot left to give this grouping in my estimation, and it was easy to pick; in a battle of Brandons, Burks beats out Ross. Burks managed to have decent-or-better showings in each of the preseason games so far, while Ross ended two of the three with a negative yardage total and a 2.6 yards-per-carry average in the other.
This would have been a much tougher call had John Crockett not sustained an injury versus the 49ers; Burks has made a good case for himself, but Crockett had done pretty well too and he came with the added bonus of having a season with the team already under his belt. With his injury, Burks takes the spot.