Green Bay Packers: Eddie Lacy move could hurt in January


The Green Bay Packers didn’t expect to have any sort of running back competition in 2015, but that’s exactly where they’ve found themselves after another slow start from Eddie Lacy. With coach Mike McCarthy recently admitting the obvious, that James Starks is now the primary backfield option, the Green Bay Packers have set themselves up well in the short-term for a week 10 matchup against the Detroit Lions. It’s down the road, though, that this Lacy decision could complicate things.

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Lacy is a notoriously slow starter. Through his first eight games of the 2014 season he topped 14 carries just one time, producing 428 yards on the ground with a pedestrian 4.08 yards-per-carry. In the same span of games this season, albeit with the majority of one missed due to injury, Lacy has put up 308 yards with a 3.71 yards-per-carry.

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The difference there is little more than a line between mediocrity and slightly-below-average, but Lacy certainly hasn’t flashed anything on the field to close the gap. An ankle injury surely hasn’t helped, and while the overweight narrative is an annual tradition in Green Bay, I’d put a confident dollar on him not being close to his listed number.

Still, there’s a real longterm risk in moving Starks ahead of Lacy. After beginning his second half of 2014 with 50 and 69-yard performances against the Bears and Eagles, Lacy finally clicked. In his final six games, Lacy would put up 592 rushing yards (5.06 YPC), 105 receiving yards on 15 catches and six total touchdowns. This continued on into a 19-carry, 101 yard performance against the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs.

Now granted, Lacy won’t be a pure backup here. Expect to see something in the neighborhood of a 65-35 split, but even with a 50-50 timeshare, does Lacy have ample time to build up for a late-season surge?

Green Bay needs a productive running game more than ever with a wide receiving corps struggling to create separation without Jordy Nelson drawing coverage deep. Aaron Rodgers has also been under fire from opposing pass rushes, but at times, has miraculously made the pass blocking look something other than dangerous.

Coming off two losses, perhaps running back is the easy place to make a move, and it’s a move that I’m not sure we’d be seeing if the Packers were 7-1 or 8-0. McCarthy has always been a coach that manages his roster with one and a half eyes on January, often to a frustrating extent, which is why I was surprised that he broke away from Lacy despite his obvious shortcomings.

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Starks has certainly earned the opportunity, averaging 4.3 yards per carry and performing well above expectations in the receiving game. I’ve long maintained that he could carry the bulk of the load for several RB-needy teams in the league, but in terms of potential ceiling, he doesn’t compare to Lacy. This is the safer move in the short-term, but I’m not optimistic that Green Bay can survive in the playoffs with only an average running game.

The ideal situation this weekend is an early lead against the Detroit Lions, which should be attainable, that allows for Green Bay to work each running back into double-digit carries. It will also be interesting to see if Lacy stays on goal line duty, but at this point, ESPN’s number one overall ranked fantasy player heading into 2015 needs any touch he can get.