Lacy's Job Could Be Easier with Green Bay

Eddie Lacy led the nation's active ball-carriers in yards per attempt, and that's when he wore a bull's-eye as the leading figure on Alabama's offense. With Lacy and Aaron Rodgers, defenses might have to pick their poison.

Eddie Lacy was too big, too strong and too good, and his offensive line was too talented, as he ran roughshod in leading Alabama to the national championship.

Lacy's advantages will be diminished as he runs against the NFL's bigger, faster and stronger defenses, but there is one big reason to believe Lacy ultimately will be productive.

At Alabama, Lacy wore the offensive bull's-eye. Defenses routinely put seven, eight and even nine defenders in the box to stop him.

With the Green Bay Packers, quarterback Aaron Rodgers wears that bull's-eye. Defenses routinely kept just six or seven defenders in the box as they worried about Rodgers' receivers infinitely more than the likes of James Starks and Alex Green.

"I really couldn't tell you (how often he ran at eight-in-the-box defenses) but I know it was often because a lot of teams were focused on stopping the running game that we had," Lacy said last week.

The "must stop Lacy" approach didn't work. With a career average of 6.77 yards per rushing attempt, Lacy led the nation's active ball-carriers. In 2012, Lacy's 6.48-yard average set a school record and was the second-best in SEC history among runners with at least 200 rushes. Of his 204 carries, Lacy had 13 carries of 20-plus yards and 31 carries of 12-plus yards.

"He's a unique runner for his size and strength," running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said. "He's got the ability to break tackles but the same ability to make them miss in open space. He's got good burst for a big guy and he can get in and out of cuts and accelerate and pull away from people. He's talented."

If Lacy can provide consistent production for the Packers, it will change everything offensively and put defenses in a bind.

With the Packers' spread-the-field approach on offense, most defenses take out a 240-pound linebacker and replace him with a 200-pound defensive back. Rather than keeping one of the two safeties in the box to help with the run game, defenses were content to keep two safeties deep in a Cover-2 look designed to eliminate the big play from the Packers' passing game. It worked. In 2011, Green Bay scored 35.0 points per game and Rodgers averaged 9.2 yards per passing attempt. In 2012, Green Bay scored 27.1 points per game and Rodgers averaged 7.8 yards per passing attempt.

"If you can tackle the running back with six in the box and keep him to 2, 3 yards a carry, you can sit in Cover-2 all day and play the pass," said Van Pelt, a former NFL quarterback and offensive coordinator. "What we've got to do is make them honor our run game and have to bring an extra guy down. That's what we're shooting for. Yeah, it's frustrating for the quarterback to run the ball against Cover-2 for no gain or 2 yards. If we have good numbers, we should have good angles in the run game and explosive gains."

Lacy was disappointed to fall to deep into the second round, behind Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell (Pittsburgh) and Wisconsin's Montee Ball (Denver). Still, Lacy called Green Bay a "great situation" because of the freedom provided by Rodgers and the passing game.

"The defense won't be able to stack the box up because we have a great quarterback and we have great weapons on the outside," Lacy said. "It leaves a lot of room for the running back to be able to run through the middle."

If the line can create that room and if Lacy can use his power and elusiveness to gain extra yardage, then defenses will be forced to pick their poison. Commit an extra defender to stop Lacy but create more room for Rodgers' receivers, in general, and down the field, in particular? Or put up with Lacy's 4-, 5- and 6-yard runs to limit Rodgers' barrage of big plays?

Chances are, the opposition's eggs will go in the "stop Rodgers" basket. That means Lacy's job potentially will be easier in Green Bay than at Alabama.

"I think it might be but, at the same time, it's a whole different level," Lacy said. "Even though they might not have eight guys in the box, everybody's good and everybody's fast and strong. It's still going to be hard, regardless."

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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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