In only a week, Johnathan Franklin went from non-factor to stud. And it only took two injuries and 13 carries to get there.
In the Green Bay Packers’ Week 3 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Franklin was thrust into the featured back role after a knee injury immobilized starter James Starks. No one could have predicted what followed.
Franklin, making his NFL debut, went on to pick up 103 rushing yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, including a 51-yard scamper that nearly ended in another six points. He also added three catches for 23 yards. On the day, he forced five missed tackles and displayed the elusiveness that convinced the Packers to make him a fourth-round pick in the first place.
Unfortunately for Franklin, his biggest – and only negative – impact came when he had the ball jarred loose and recovered by the Bengals for a game-sealing touchdown. Despite his blunder, it’s hard to overlook the fact that he – a Packers running back – broke the 100-yard mark in his first taste of NFL action.
Even with fellow rookie Eddie Lacy likely to return in Week 5 following the Packers’ bye, Franklin has put himself a position to see more consistent snaps moving forward. He was more effective with his touches than Starks and provided a much-needed spark for a Green Bay offense that was floundering uncharacteristically. It won’t be enough to steal the top spot on the depth chart, but it definitely forced the coaching staff to gameplan a few plays for No. 23.
It’s still be seen if this was one of those “one-game wonder” situations. Franklin wasn’t a factor in the Packers’ first two games because of his underwhelming practice performances, but he might be a player who only delivers when the stands are filled.
As far as the Packers are concerned, Franklin is a fact. There’s still plenty of time for the rookie runner to revert back to fiction, though. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see how the rest of his 2013 campaign plays out.