Stats Show Why Harris Remains Leader of Backs

It's been a long time since DuJuan Harris has been on the field and plenty has changed with the addition of two of the top runners in the draft. Nonetheless, he remains the No. 1 back due in large part to how the running game flourished with Harris in the lineup last year.

Why is DuJuan Harris the Green Bay Packers' No. 1 running back, despite not practicing in the offseason and not getting on the field for training camp until Monday?

"The young man is a damn good football player," coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday.

A midseason addition to the practice squad last year, Harris wound up being too good on Clarke Hinkle Field to be kept off of Lambeau Field.

Earning a late-season promotion, Harris carried 34 times for 157 yards in the regular season and added 28 rushes for 100 yards in the playoffs. He was arguably the Packers' best offensive player in the playoff loss at San Francisco, with his 4.8-yard average and 18-yard touchdown, but inexplicably got the ball just 11 times even while the game didn't get out of hand until the second half.

Including playoff games, Harris averaged 4.15 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns. All the other running backs combined averaged 3.38 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns.

"DuJuan Harris, the way we finished the season, I would classify him as a starter on our football team," McCarthy said. "That doesn't mean he goes out and plays every down. I have that confidence in him. It took us awhile to get him ready last year, but I thought he finished the season very strong."

As Harris held court just to guard T.J. Lang's right, Lang spoke highly of Harris, whose performance showed the season-long problems with the run game didn't all fall on the offensive line.

"DuJuan was definitely a great addition," Lang said. "He was a guy who came in here and caught on quick to what we were doing on offense. He made the most of his opportunities."

Harris didn't participate in offseason practices and needed surgery to remove a large cyst next to his lung. The spin is the improved lung capacity should make Harris even more explosive than he was in 2012.

If that's the case, he might be the leader of the backfield — the addition of Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin notwithstanding.

"Last year was last year. I've got to bring something new to the table this year," Harris said.

Neither of the veteran holdovers, James Starks (3.59 average) nor Alex Green (3.44), were active for the two playoff games, as McCarthy thought Harris and past-his-prime Ryan Grant were better options.

According to, 60 running backs had at least Starks' total of 71 rushes last year. Starks averaged 2.2 yards after contact — 38 backs averaged more — and Green averaged 2.1. Harris, on other hand, averaged 2.5.

"He's fearless," running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said. "He runs quickly through the hole and there's not a lot of dodging going on. He showed that the first carry he got out here when we tossed him the ball against Detroit and he ran over the safety. I think he's got a good mix of speed and toughness and the ability to run through arm tackles."

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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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