The Green Bay Packers announced Wednesday they will start veteran running back James Starks over rookie Eddie Lacy in Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Southern Ohio. Lacy, the Packers’ second-round selection in April’s NFL Draft, suffered a concussion on his first carry during last week’s 38-20 win over the Washington Redskins. The Packers, though, are extremely smart to start Starks over Lacy.
Concussions are more serious in football than ever before, and the Packers have a runner who proved on Sunday that he is just as capable at providing a spark out of the offensive backfield. Starks rushed for a career-high 132 yards on 20 carries against the Redskins, and there is no need to bench the hot-hand in favor of a battered rookie.
Since the second-half of the Packers’ season opening loss against the San Francisco 49ers, the offensive line has steadily improved in run blocking. Against the 49ers, Lacy rushed for 37 yards on nine carries in the final two quarters. As a team against the Redskins, the Packers rushed for 142 yards on 21 carries, averaging a tremendous 6.8 yards per carry. Through two weeks, though, the Redskins have the worst rushing defense in football. In their season-opening loss at home against the Philadelphia Eagles, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy rushed for 184 yards on 31 carries.
So was Starks’ big day just a matter of the Packers taking advantage of a weak Washington defensive unit? Not necessarily, because the bottom line is that the Packers were able to successfully run the football against an NFL defense for one and a half games so far this season. The test gets tougher for Green Bay’s rushing offense at Cincinnati, as opponents have totaled 125 rushing yards on 44 carries (2.8 yards per carry average) against the Bengals’ defense in two games this season. If the Packers can rush for 75 yards as a team, it’ll be a win for the offense, with or without Lacy.
The point is, the offensive rushing attack will not dictate the fate of the game, but it will be the Packers’ diverse play-calling on the offensive side of the football which should get the job done. When I say diverse play-calling, I do mean mixing up the run, pass, play-action and so on and so forth, but it is not entirely what I believe the Packers should do.
With a limited amount of healthy running backs on offense, the Packers should mix up their personnel to keep the Bengals’ defense off-balance. If the Packers were going to choose a week to run wide receivers Randall Cobb and Jeremy Ross out of the backfield and send tight end Jermichael Finley on deep fly routes, this is the week to try it out. Against a tough, smart and gritty Bengals defense, with or without Lacy, the Packers must put together a surprising offensive gamplan.
If the fans want to expect the unexpected out of the Packers, this is the game to do try it out.