The Green Bay Packers are facing a major problem at running back.
Eddie Lacy has run well for two straight weeks, but suffered an ankle injury during the game against the New York Giants. He is expected to play, but there is no doubt his effectiveness could be hampered.
Perhaps more surprisingly, James Starks might be even less likely to play this weekend. He picked up a knee injury sometime during this week, but it was reported he has some unfortunate personal matters to tend to now as well; with that, his status for this game is in doubt on multiple fronts.
The news on these two is more impactful for a team built like Green Bay than it would be for most. Not only do both Lacy and Starks play pretty consistent roles on the offense, but perhaps more damaging is the team has no other running backs on the current roster.
Outside of them, the team has Aaron Ripkowski (a fullback) and has shown packages utilizing both Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery in the backfield, but none of these feels like a palatable option for large portions of the game. Ripkowski did prove able to provide a powerful option on dive plays last Sunday, but he isn’t the type of player you want to give many carries to. Cobb and Montgomery can take some carries and add a stronger dimension to the screen game, but neither should be reasonably expected to handle a large running workload.
If the Packers would like to look elsewhere, there are some running back options available out there.
First off, they could call up Don Jackson. He spent time with the team in the summer, and despite getting cut at one point was picked over a litany of other possible options to be on the practice squad. In college, Jackson racked up 2,318 yards on the ground with a 4.5 yards-per-carry average, so he might be a decent choice at running back in a pinch such as this.
If they would rather go in another direction, they had a couple of interesting players in camp and with the team leading into the year.
Brandon Burks was a guy who I thought could have made the final roster coming into the year, putting up decent showings across the preseason (4 game total: 31 rushes, 120 yards). He could potentially provide a steady presence in limited action.
Jhurell Pressley was an interesting pickup of waivers from Minnesota right around the start of the year (before he subsequently was cut 10 days later). His preseason performances weren’t especially good on the ground (28 carries, 80 yards), but he did show off some explosive ability with a kick return TD in his final preseason game. He also made a nice showing in that game as a receiver out of the backfield (4 catches, 49 yards, 1 TD versus Los Angeles).
If I were to choose from these options, bringing back Pressley would seem to be the move with the highest upside. His ability to work in multiple facets of the game makes him a potential dynamic weapon if used correctly.
Ultimately, I would expect the team to stick with what they have, however. To add a new player here would mean someone must be cut elsewhere on the roster, and Green Bay is already faced with having to make two potential cut decisions as it is with Demetri Goodson and Mike Pennel coming off their four-game absences.
Pennel seems likely to simply take over for someone like Brian Price, but it’s harder to guess in terms Goodson. Unlike with Pennel for Price, the Packers can’t do a strict same-position switch-up for him due to the injury problems at the CB spot; somebody at another position must go instead. With a pretty stacked roster, it is hard to determine a single other guy to take off the main roster — much less two — so bringing in an outside candidate for what seems likely to only be one game appears untenable.
It may not sound great, but from the perspective of the construction of the full roster, the best move (and the one the Packers most likely go with) seems to be foregoing any new faces and attempting to survive the game with whatever the combination of Lacy, Ripkowski, Cobb, and Montgomery can manage to produce on the ground.