Workhorse Lacy Keeps Other Backs in Bullpen

While Eddie Lacy has a chance to be the first Packers running back to lead the NFL in carries since Jim Taylor, James Starks is playing less and Johnathan Franklin is barely playing at all — though that could change, running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said.

The Green Bay Packers' running game is Eddie Lacy left, Eddie Lacy right, Eddie Lacy up the middle.

Lacy enters this week's games ranked eighth in the league with 172 carries. Had he not missed essentially two games with a concussion, he almost certainly would have been one of three backs in the league with at least 200 carries and potentially would have more than LeSean McCoy's league-high total of 213.

James Starks has 55 carries, which is right about the middle of the pack among the league's backups. (Fourteen teams' No. 2 backs have less than Starks' total.) However, he's practically disappeared after back-to-back games of seven carries for 57 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota and six carries for 40 yards and a touchdown against Chicago.

Against Philadelphia and the Giants the past two weeks, Starks has carried six times for 4 yards. He played a total of 13 snaps, including four last week.

"Just parts of the game situationally, where we are, what's the score," running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said when asked why Starks has essentially disappeared from the game plan. "We feel like Eddie is the guy we're rolling with right now. When the game comes on the line and we need runs, we lean on Eddie to get that done."

If Starks has vanished, then Johnathan Franklin's picture might be found on milk cartons throughout the Green Bay area. Franklin, who exploded for 103 yards on 13 rushes with Lacy and Starks out against Cincinnati, hasn't touched the ball on offense in the last four games and didn't play a single snap on offense in three consecutive games before getting on the field for two plays last week.

"No, that has nothing to do with that at all. Zero," Van Pelt said of Franklin's fumbles against Cincinnati, which perhaps cost Green Bay a victory before the bye, and against Detroit after the bye. "Just limited touches. Get 54 plays in a game, you try to run it 30 times, you're going to give Eddie 20 and James five and hopefully get Franklin five if you can do the perfect math. It just comes down to situation. Where are you in the game? What's the score? Is the game on the line? Do we need a drive? Then Eddie will be the one carrying the ball."

Franklin potentially could give a struggling offense a jolt. With injuries to Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley, Green Bay has scored less than 20 points in back-to-back games for the first time since late in 2008. In fact, Green Bay had scored less than 20 points just three times between the playoff run in 2010 and this stretch.

"That's up to Coach (Mike McCarthy) and the decisions we make of who goes in," Van Pelt said. "But he looks great in practice. You watch him on the practice field and every time he touches it, you say, ‘Man, we need to get him some carries in the game.' So, he's impressing us on the field, we just have got to get those chances. I know it's, whether we put him on certain runs or however that happens, but at some point this year he'll carry the ball for us. We're excited to see that."

Until then, it will be The Lacy Show. In his nine games — even including his one-carry performance against Washington — he's averaged 19.1 carries per game. He had that many carries just twice in his entire career at Alabama. At that pace, he'd finish the season with 287 attempts. He carried 204 times last year at Alabama. He's got a chance at having just the sixth 300-carry season in Packers history.

A Packers running back hasn't led the league in carries since Jim Taylor in 1960 and 1962. If not for the concussion, Lacy might be in that company.

"No, I don't see that he's hitting the (rookie) wall at all," Van Pelt said. "We address it, we talk about the rookie wall, those guys are aware it happens and, as a rookie, obviously you need the older guys to tell you, ‘Hey, it's going to be tough sledding down this last stretch. Your season's over, you're getting ready for a bowl game, you played your 12, 13 games and here we're in Week 14 with the preseason with six-plus more to go, hopefully. They're aware of it and we address it. I don't see him hitting the wall."

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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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