The Green Bay Packers‘ don’t run the ball much, but when they do, Green Bay will rely heavily on their primary running back James Starks. The third year running back will have a bigger importance on the team this season, as Ryan Grant is no longer with the team. However, the first thing Starks has to do is remain healthy.
Starks hasn’t played a full season in his short career. He missed 13 games in 2010 mostly due to a hamstring injury and was sidelined for three games last year. Although he has been injured, Starks has shown some spark when he has been on the field. He also knows that injuries are part of the game.
“It is what it is. It’s football,” Starks said of his injury issues. “It’s a physical game. People get hurt all the time. If you get down, you’re going to stay down. I’m going to get right back up. I’m going to pray. And I’m always going to be a driver and striver.”
Even with Starks healthy, will he really be needed for a breakout year that Green Bay is hoping for. Coach Mike McCarthy has relied heavily on the pass since he became head coach and that showed up the most during the 2011 season. Last year the Packers ran 65.6 percent of their plays through the air which was most in the NFL.
However, a running game is still needed, no matter how dominate the passing game has become in the league. If anything, it will at least provide a backup plan for the Packers’ offense. Their passing game rarely fails, but if it does, it is nice to have a decent running game to fall back on.
Going into this season, the Packers organization know that they are not strong depth-wise at running back. It won’t be determined until the season starts whether or not he will have his breakout year, but the Packers are hopeful.
“You hope that every guy gets better every year,” Packer offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. “He has a lot of ability. He’s powerful, runs hard, catches the ball out of the backfield pretty well. We’re hopeful.”
So hope is the word to describe the Packers running game. There is hope that Starks can take this bigger role on the team and turn into something special. He may seem young at the age of 26, but most running backs struggle to succeed past their early 30′s. In essence, this is a make-or-break year for the former Buffalo University running back.
Coach McCarthy might not give the running game a lot of chances to succeed, but when he does, Starks needs to make sure he takes advantage of it. His average of 4.2 yards per carry last season needs to improve slightly and he needs to use his power to help with short yardage situations.
If his performance this season can turn into a “breakout year,” then expect the Packers to be even harder to beat this season.
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