Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday rookie running back Eddie Lacy has been “making progress” and he could possibly be cleared to play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Lacy, who is recovering from a concussion he suffered on his first carry in the Packers 38-20 home win over the Washington Redskins this past weekend, is questionable to play in the Packers’ second road game of the season.
McCarthy said Wednesday veteran running back James Starks is the “definite” starter at Cincinnati, one week after Starks rushed for a career-high 132 yards on 20 carries. McCarthy said he was hoping to get the Packers’ other rookie running back, Johnathan Franklin, involved in last Sunday’s game, but he stuck with the hot-hand in Starks. Franklin will most likely be the Packers’ primary backup running back behind Starks on Sunday (barring any kind of quick healing by Lacy). Packer and football fans should NOT expect to see too much from the rookie Franklin.
Franklin was a stud in college at UCLA, as he rushed for a school-record 4,403 yards and scored 34 touchdowns in four years. Franklin was one of three players selected in the fourth round by the Packers in April’s NFL Draft. “He is a really smart kid,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Wednesday. “He needs an opportunity to get his confidence going. He brings versatility and he has a bright future for us, it is just a matter of opportunities.”
Franklin will likely have very few opportunities in Cincinnati, however, as the Packers are easing him into the system, one week at a time, despite the team’s history of playing rookies early and often almost every season. Besides Lacy, the Packers have a rookie starting at left tackle (David Bakhtiari), a rookie playing the Packers primary nickelback position on defense (Micah Hyde), and another rookie who is in the top half of the team’s defensive line rotation (Datone Jones). As much as myself and Packer nation would love to see Franklin out on the field and showing off what kind of steal the Packers had drafted, the season opener dictates what exactly could happen on Sunday.
Against the San Francisco 49ers in the opener, Lacy had four rushing yards on five carries and he lost a fumble. McCarthy benched him for the remainder of the first half but put Lacy back into the game in the second half. Want to guess how many carries Starks, the primary backup, had that day? That’s right, goose egg (zero). Even wide receiver Randall Cobb had a couple of carries out of the backfield over the veteran Starks.
McCarthy said Franklin has “done some good things” and the Packers are “getting him ready to go” in practice, but don’t expect to see Franklin very often with possession of the football on Sunday. The bottom line here is that McCarthy has a history of specifically giving his top running back on the depth chart the majority of the carries, while giving his All-Pro quarterback the opportunity to exploit opposing defenses with a ridiculously talented slate of offensive weaponry along the perimeter.
As much as I would enjoy seeing Franklin on the field this weekend, I understand the Packers’ offense is most dangerous through the air rather than on the ground.