Camp Clashes: Running Back

With Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin in and John Kuhn potentially on thin ice, backfield at the end of training camp this year could offer almost no resemblance to the backfield the Packers used for most of 2012.

With the Green Bay Packers opening training camp on Friday, Packer Report takes a closer look at the running backs.

The star

Eddie Lacy: He's not a star now, but Lacy comes with big-time credentials at Alabama – aka, Running Back U. With a career average of 6.77 yards per carry, he led the nation's active ball-carriers. Yes, he ran behind a tremendous offensive line and against college-level defenders, but he also ran mostly against eight-in-the-box defenses designed him. With Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, it's hard to imagine he'll ever see eight in the box in a situation other than third-and-1.

Lacy won't have to carry the load in Green Bay, not with Johnathan Franklin, DuJuan Starks and any possible contributions from Alex Green and/or James Starks, but the prospect of 230 pounds of Lacy running against a steady diet of nickel defenses allows one of the best offenses in the NFL to get even better. It also allows the offense to function better on a cold, slippery field in December and beyond.

The big battle

Running back: If Lacy and Franklin are locks, who rounds out the depth chart? Harris presumably has the upper hand based on his sensational performance at the end of last season. It's a remarkable story, with Harris out of the league for almost two months after being released by the Jaguars and Steelers twice in the span of a week last summer. Harris quickly opened his teammates' eyes while running on the practice squad and was promoted to the active roster on Dec. 1. In all, he played in six games. He averaged at least 4.4 yards per carry four times – Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota in the regular season and San Francisco in the playoffs. As a team, the Packers accomplished that figure seven times in 17 games.

Potentially, the Packers could go into the season with just those three. Or, James Starks and Alex Green could be competing for a fourth spot to give them a tandem of big backs to take some of the load off of Lacy. When healthy, Starks has been by far the better player. Staying healthy, of course, has been the issue for Starks. In fact, it was the blow to the kneecap against Minnesota on Dec. 2, during the course of an impressive 15-carry, 66-yard performance, that opened the door for Harris. Starks, who is entering his final season under contract, has played in 22 of a possible 48 regular-season games. Green, entering his third season, lost the starting job twice last year and never got another carry after sustaining a concussion on Dec. 16 at Chicago. He averaged just 3.4 yards en route to a team-high 464 yards.

The sleeper

Jonathan Amosa: Amosa comes from Washington with the reputation of being a rough-and-tumble lead-blocking fullback. Can he catch it well enough to be a threat in the passing game so the offense can remain balanced when he's in the game?

The long shot

Angelo Pease: Coach Mike McCarthy singled out Pease a couple times during the rookie camp, but Pease missed OTAs and the minicamp with an undisclosed injury. It's hard to imagine the Packers going into the season with Harris and three rookies in the backfield.

The bubble

John Kuhn: Kuhn's folk-hero status was cemented long ago. He's scored 25 career touchdowns in 111 career games, including playoffs. They might not have had a chance to win the Super Bowl in 2010 had Kuhn not run off the final four-plus minutes in a 28-26 win against Detroit. He does everything at a decent level. He has a knack for finding room in short-yardage situations. He catches the ball reliably. He generally gets the job done when blocking, whether it's leading the running back through the hole or picking up the blitz in his trusted role on third down. But with Lacy presumably ready to take the short-yardage role and with Franklin having the potential to add a more explosive element as the third-down back, Kuhn's value to the team has gone down. Kuhn is 30 with a cap number of $2,543,750 ($1.8 million base). Amosa would be a cheaper option; or the Packers could turn to their deep corps of tight ends.

The bottom line

If Lacy and Franklin pan out, the Packers could have one of the better young backfields in the league to go with a lethal passing game. That's enough to give defensive coordinators nightmares – assuming they can get to sleep in the first place.

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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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