2015 Packers Running Back Analysis

2015 Packers Running Back Analysis

One of the lasting images of this Green Bay Packers season was Eddie Lacy bumbling and stumbling down the field for 61 yards against the Arizona Cardinals during the Divisional Round of the playoffs. However, that image is quite distorted from what the Packers got from their rushing attack this season.

Lacy entered 2015 off back-to-back 1,100 yard seasons and all signs pointed to bigger production. What the Packers got from their lead back was a measly 758 yards and a season long headache. From Lacy being benched in Detroit for missing curfew to season long questions about his weight, the Packers had to turn to James Starks to carry nearly the same workload as Lacy.

[graphiq id=”1yWEWE4W6Wh” title=”Green Bay Packers Player Rushing Distribution in 2015″ width=”600″ height=”533″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/1yWEWE4W6Wh” link=”http://nfl-teams.pointafter.com/l/20/Green-Bay-Packers” link_text=”Green Bay Packers Player Rushing Distribution in 2015 | PointAfter”]

Despite Lacy falling immensely short of expectations in 2015, the backfield rushing totals were comparable to 2014. The Packers were 12th in total rush yards this season (11th in 2014), and they were just 67 yards short of their 2014 total. The receiving stats from Starks and Lacy combined nearly duplicated their production in 2014, with three more receptions and 13 more yards in 2015.

[graphiq id=”SmsLPFyxw1″ title=”Green Bay Packers Rushing Performance Per Game in 2015″ width=”640″ height=”521″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/SmsLPFyxw1″ link=”http://nfl-teams.pointafter.com/l/20/Green-Bay-Packers” link_text=”Green Bay Packers Rushing Performance Per Game in 2015 | PointAfter”]

The Packers used a committee approach most of the season, and that was good enough to give them the same production they received the season before. That being said, the Packers were without Jordy Nelson all season, and from the day Nelson tore his ACL, all Packer fans knew to take the next step and get to Super Bowl 50, they were going to need more production from their backfield.

Entering the 2016 offseason, Green Bay’s backfield is loaded with uncertainty. The uncertainty starts with Lacy. The Packers running back looked  heavier than his 2014 version, and as my colleague Brandon Carwile wrote in a fantastic article Running Back Eddie Lacy – A Weighty Issue, it is now reported the team wants him to lose 30 pounds and be in better playing shape.

[graphiq id=”k6HXEB8cxnf” title=”Eddie Lacy Overview” width=”640″ height=”607″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/k6HXEB8cxnf” link=”http://football-players.pointafter.com/l/11842/Eddie-Lacy” link_text=”Eddie Lacy Overview | PointAfter”]

While the focus is on Lacy’s conditioning, general manager Ted Thompson must deal with the hazy condition of the rest of the backfield. Pro Bowl fullback, John Kuhn and veteran running back, James Starks, are both free agents.

Despite being a fan-favorite, it seems unnecessary to re-sign Kuhn who turns 34 at the start of next season. Offensive schemes rely less on fullbacks and Kuhn played less than one quarter of the Packers’ offensive snaps this season, 307. Mike McCarthy does use the fullback as much as any other NFL coach. If he continues to do so, it appears the Packers are ready to give those snaps to Aaron Ripkowski, drafted in 2015 as Kuhn’s eventual replacement.

The bigger story to follow is Starks. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is reporting Starks is interested in finding a starting job. All around the league, player agents are starting to leak out alleged demands. This story is clearly an attempt by an agent to get more money for his client. It’s possible Starks is looking for a payday out of the Packers price range.

[graphiq id=”fyAEZXFyCWx” title=”James Starks Overview” width=”640″ height=”607″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/fyAEZXFyCWx” link=”http://football-players.pointafter.com/l/19634/James-Starks” link_text=”James Starks Overview | PointAfter”]

My opinion might be contrary to that of many Packers’ fans. I wouldn’t mind letting Starks go. He provided a much-needed service this season, but he turns 30 next season and the team need more explosiveness from their backfield. I would like to see the Packers get a passing down back they can rely on to play third downs and passing situations. Younger players such as Bilal Powell or Lance Dunbar (pending health) will be available this offseason and have proven their effectiveness in the passing game.

It’s more likely the Packers will address their running back needs through the draft. Adding a quick, dynamic rusher isn’t something we have seen in the passing game with Aaron Rodgers.

Could the Packers target Ezekiel Elliott from Ohio State in day one of the draft? Or speedster Josh Ferguson from Illinois in day two? Perhaps, Thompson is eyeing a day three selection like Keith Marshall from Georgia or Bralon Addison of Oregon. (You’ll find player profiles on these backs here at the Barroom website in the coming weeks.)

It’s safe to bet Thompson will draft a running back. Betting on what round is the riskier proposition. He will also certainly add a long-shot or two via undrafted free-agency like 2015 acquisition John Crockett who is signed for 2016.

A round one or two running back draft choice may mean the Packers are fed up with Lacy’s weight issues. But, let’s hope Lacy returns to form. If he does, offseason acquisitions for the backfield are just gravy on top.


Source(s): NFL.com; Pro-Football Reference; GraphIq

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Eddie LacyJames StarksJohn KuhnPackers

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