A few years ago, there was only one thing opposing defenses had to worry about while facing the Green Bay Packers. With no running game whatsoever, defenses could rush only three or four, and drop the rest into coverage. While Aaron Rodgers was still able to pick apart opposing secondary’s, the lack of a running game meant more and more pressure was put on the passing game.
In last year’s NFL draft, the Packers decided they need to fix their running game woes, and drafted Eddie Lacy from Alabama. After having a tough first game against the San Francisco 49ers and suffering a concussion the following week versus the Washington Redskins, Lacy shined after returning in week five. Lacy finished the year with 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns. Lacy became the first Packers running back since Ryan Grant in 2009 to rush for over 1,000 yards.
With the Packers passing game being so dynamic over the past two decades, one has to question why the running would not have similar success? One reason I think there has been limited success is the Packers have not a running back stay healthy throughout the season. During their Super Bowl run in 2010, Brandon Jackson was the starter for the majority of the season, but then rookie James Starks carried the load during the playoffs. Starks and Ryan Grant shared the load in 2011, but neither running back topped 600 yards on the year. In 2012, the Packers were really bit by the injury bug, as five different running backs started a game.
Even though Lacy missed almost two full games, he still managed to have an effective rookie year and rush for over 1,000 yards. While the 1,178 yards were impressive, an even more impressive number might be the 666 yards he put up in the eight weeks Aaron Rodgers was out. With a limited passing threat, defenses were able to stack the box a little more, but Lacy was still effective.
As we look ahead to the upcoming year, there is no doubt in my mind that Lacy’s numbers will continue to improve. After having a full year of learning the playbook, and hopefully having a healthy Aaron Rodgers for the full season, Lacy will be poised for a big year. The problem defenses will have against the Packers is if they decide to load up against the pass, Lacy will have bigger and bigger rushing lanes. On the flip side, if defenses load the box, Aaron Rodgers will pick them apart.
Eddie Lacy will have a huge year for the Green Bay Packers. Don’t be shocked if he finishes inside the top five, maybe even the top three in rushing yards.