Notebook: Starks Working Hard

Work ethic isn't what's held back rookie running back James Starks. Plus, punting to DeSean Jackson, Eagles personnel notes and more from Thursday.

Edgar Bennett wanted to clear up something about rookie running back James Starks.

After a promising 73 yards on 18 carries in his NFL debut against San Franciso in Week 13, Starks managed 8 yards on six carries against Detroit. He was inactive for the next two games, with coach Mike McCarthy hinting that Starks' practices weren't up to standard.

"He comes in early and leaves late," Bennett, the Green Bay Packers' running backs coach, said on Thursday. "It's not a question of work ethic. It's more of the detail of it. Let's nip that in the bud. It's not work ethic. It's a process, just like anything else. All the talent that you look for, his attitude, his work ethic, it's just a matter of continuing to grow."

Active last week in a must-win regular-season finale against Chicago, Starks rushed for 20 yards on five attempts and added a 12-yard reception.

With fullback Korey Hall looking doubtful because of a knee sprain, Starks has a chance to be active again to be the fifth player in the backfield mix.

Starks is taking nothing for granted.

"I don't know yet," he said. "Each day, I'm basically taking it as evaluation every day. I really don't know until the last minute every week. It's like that each week for me."

Action Jackson

From the frying pan to the fire for the Packers' special teams.

One week after silencing the most explosive punt returner in NFL history, Devin Hester, in a must-win game against Chicago, the Packers will get their kicks against the Eagles' DeSean Jackson.

Of players with at least 20 punt returns, Jackson ranked seventh with an 11.6-yard average. Of course, his big play was his stunning, game-winning 65-yard touchdown against the Giants in Week 15.

"What we did against Devin the other night, we did have success, but that's pretty much the basic game plan every time," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said of trying to pin the returner to the sideline. "Because you want to limit the return opportunities, No. 1. If you could kick the ball out of bounds every time, that'd be ideal. It's not that easy. They're going to get their hands on the ball. Knowing that, you want to try to reduce the amount of field to work with. You do that with your coverage and the placement of the ball."

Eagles personnel notes

— Like the Packers, the Eagles had five Pro Bowlers: kicker David Akers, receiver DeSean Jackson, tackle Jason Peters, cornerback Asante Samuel and quarterback Michael Vick.

— Vick is the first player in NFL history with 3,000-plus passing yards and 20-plus touchdown passes, with 500-plus rushing yards and seven-plus rushing touchdowns. Vick finished with 3,018 passing yards, 21 touchdown passes, 676 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns.

— Running back LeSean McCoy led the NFC with 1,672 yards from scrimmage (1,080 rushing and 592 receiving), plus led all NFL running backs with a team-high 78 receptions.

— Jackson has scored 26 touchdowns in his first three NFL seasons (including playoffs), with an average distance of 47.2 yards.

— Jackson's sidekicks are Jeremy Maclin, who was second on the team with 70 catches for 964 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns. No. 3 receiver Jason Avant, who lines up in the slot, caught 51 passes.

— Samuel's 227 yards off of interceptions are an NFL-playoff record. Of his seven playoff interceptions, four were pick-sixes. Samuel led the NFC with seven interceptions during the regular season.

Packers injury report

Did not participate: S Atari Bigby (groin); FB Korey Hall (knee); LB Frank Zombo (knee). Limited participation: DE Cullen Jenkins (calf); LB Clay Matthews (shin); DE Ryan Pickett (ankle); CB Charles Woodson (toe). Full participation: T Chad Clifton (knees); S Nick Collins (ribs).

"He practiced today a little more than he did yesterday," McCarthy said of Jenkins. "Went through some of the team drills. Just as we said at the beginning of the week, we're going to take the full week of preparation and have a decision at the end of the week. He's getting better."

Eagles injury report

Did not participate: LB Stewart Bradley (elbow); G Todd Herremans (calf); G Max Jean-Giles (ankle). Full participation: G Nick Cole (knee); TE Clay Harbor (abdomen); T Winston Justice (knee); DT Trevor Laws (shoulder); CB Asante Samuel (knee); QB Michael Vick (quad).

Four-point stance

Aaron Rodgers was voted the NFC's offensive player of the month. He went 3-1, with 977 passing yards, eight touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 114.4. He was named player of the week twice, in Week 13 against San Francisco and Week 16 against the Giants. Chicago's Brian Urlacher won on defense and the Falcons' Eric Weems on special teams.

— Entering the playoffs, the Packers are 12-1 favorites to win the Super Bowl, Philadelphia is 11-1, according to Bodog.com. New England (9-5), Atlanta (6-1) and Pittsburgh (11-2) are the top picks, with Seattle a long-shot 100-1. Speaking of odds: The Packers are three-point underdogs with an over/under total of 46; Greg Jennings is the favorite to post the most receiving yards this weekend; and Rodgers' over/under for passing yardage is 265.5.

— The Eagles' kickoff returner, Gerard Lawson, made his season debut last week after playing for Hartford in the UFL. He returned two kickoffs for a 24.0-yard average, getting tackled by the kicker each time. "He played tough and he played tough on the coverage. He's what we expected. He's a tough guy, he's a hungry guy and that makes a lot of difference," Eagles special teams coordinator Bobby April told beat writers on Philadelphia.

— Evan Dietrich-Smith re-signed with the Packers last week. He might have joined the Jets had his flight to New Jersey for a workout not been canceled by the blizzard, he said.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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