Running Backs Will Be Center of Attention

What kind of roles will be earned by rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin? Will fellow rookie Angelo Pease earn more praise from the coaches? And where do DuJuan Harris, James Starks and Alex Green fit in a crowded backfield? The answers will start being formulated on Tuesday.

With organized team activities beginning on Tuesday, no position holds as much intrigue as running back.

What kind of roles will second-round pick Eddie Lacy and fourth-round pick Johnathan Franklin carve out? Will they be so good that they change the face of the offense, or will they merely be role players as rookies?

Does another rookie, undrafted Angelo Pease, have a real shot after being singled out for praise by coach Mike McCarthy twice during the rookie camp?

Is DuJuan Harris for real after breathing life into a dormant running game?

Is James Starks finished in Green Bay, and will he clear out his locker with Alex Green?

All eyes will be on Lacy and Franklin. Since Ryan Grant's back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons in 2008 and 2009, the Packers' team-leading rushing totals have been Brandon Jackson's 703 yards in 2010, Starks' 578 yards in 2011 and Alex Green's 464 yards in 2012. Green's total is the lowest team-leading figure for Green Bay since Darick Holmes' 386 yards in 1998, and not much more than Adrian Peterson's 409 yards in two regular-season games against Green Bay.

The Packers haven't had a 100-yard rusher since Starks' 123 yards in the 2010 wild-card game at Philadelphia.

"I think they'll be a nice duo," said former NFL scout and general manager Phil Savage, who watched Lacy as a member of Alabama's radio network and Franklin in his role as Senior Bowl executive director. "I know that there are other backs up there, but if it did come down to the two rookies, I don't think that it would be an issue. I think Eddie's obviously got a lot of talent. If 100 percent healthy, he's one of the top 15 players in this draft. The medical reports are part of the reason he slipped some. Because he did, though, he may not have to carry the burden of being the No. 1 bellcow with no assistance. I think the fact that they followed him up with Johnathan Franklin, I think that's a really good complementary backfield between those two.

"Eddie, when he's at his best, he was the top back in this draft because he's got size and he's got balance and he can deliver a blow and he's elusive in the short area. He's no slouch protecting the passer — he's better at it than people probably expect — and he can catch the ball out of the backfield.

"(Franklin) can not only run the ball between the tackles but he can pass protect, he can catch the ball. He's just a winner."

Pease came to Green Bay with modest production, with 477 rushing yards (5.0 average) and seven receptions for 44 yards in two seasons at Kansas State.

"I thought Pease of Kansas State had a very good weekend. He had another run today," McCarthy said at the end of the rookie camp. "I think he's a good young back. He's here for a reason. So, that's a credit to the player and that's a credit to our personnel department. You're also practicing in helmets and shorts and that's why you have to be practical about what you saw today. It really confirms movement ability, athletic ability. The real football doesn't start until training camp and we all realize that."

Among the holdovers, the closest thing to a sure thing is Harris. Including the postseason, Harris averaged 4.2 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns. All of the Packers' running backs combined averaged 3.4 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns.

Assuming Harris wasn't just a flash in the pan — or, as Ron Wolf might say, a "fart in the wind" — then it would seem Starks and Green will be fighting with Pease for the final spot in the backfield. The Packers might not have won the Super Bowl without Starks, but he's played in just 22 of a possible 48 regular-season games. Green had two chances to secure the No. 1 position last season but couldn't hang onto the role either time. Green, a third-round pick in 2011, missed most of his rookie season due to a torn ACL. It's possible the Packers haven't seen Green at his best.

The expectation — from outside of 1265 Lombardi Ave., anyway — is that Lacy and Franklin will compete to be the No. 1 back. Lacy, however, is taking nothing for granted.

"I had to compete pretty much everywhere I went," he said, thinking back to playing behind Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson at Alabama. "It's not like something I'll have to get used to. It's something I've been through already. So, I know what to expect and I know how to go through it. So, I take those experiences and I just bring them and continue to do what I've been doing."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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