Offseason Progress Report: Running Backs

Eddie Lacy, James Starks and DuJuan Harris give the Packers one of the best one-two-three punches in the NFL. The retirement of Johnathan Franklin opens the door for the No. 4 spot.

With four weeks of offseason practices behind them, Packer Report is taking a position-by-position look at the Green Bay Packers.

Depth chart

30 Kuhn, John 6-0 250 31 9 Shippensburg
41 Liaina, Ina 6-0 250 24 1 San Jose State
27 Lacy, Eddie 5-11 230 24 2 Alabama
44 Starks, James 6-2 218 28 5 Buffalo
26 Harris, DuJuan 5-8 203 25 2 Troy
22 Hill, Michael 5-10 210 24 2 Missouri Western
34 Neal, Rajion 5-11 220 22 R Tennessee
36 Perkins, LaDarius 5-7 195 23 R Mississippi State

The answer

This not only is the Packers' best position, but it might be the best corps of running backs in the league -- even with Johnathan Franklin's career-ending neck injury.

Eddie Lacy is the reigning Rookie of the Year and was a second-team All-Pro after rushing for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns. He averaged 4.1 yards per carry; new running backs coach Sam Gash wants his players to average at least 4.0. Impressively, he averaged 4.4 yards per carry while wearing a bull's-eye during Aaron Rodgers' two-month absence.

James Starks led the NFL with 5.5 yards per carry to garner a two-year contract in free agency. His three touchdowns came from 32, 32 and 25 yards. DuJuan Harris missed all of last season with a knee injury. It was a small sample size in 2012, but his 4.6 yards per carry was a full yard better than the rest of the backs combined. During the minicamp, he was the No. 1 kickoff returner.

"Nothing," Gash said when asked what he knew about Harris. "I was in Detroit the year that he played them (2012) and he just lit them up. Coach (Alex) Van Pelt (last year's running backs coach) told me, he was like, ‘You've got a little firecracker in DuJuan.' And then he got injured and stuff. He's a dynamic player. Got a very good skill-set."

With the depth, perhaps Mike McCarthy will feel inclined to reduce Lacy's workload. Even while essentially missing two games with a concussion, he touched the ball 342 times (including the playoff game).

"The number of carries, it really doesn't matter to me," Lacy said. "I'll take whatever they're willing to give me. Every opportunity means a lot. I'm going to run the ball as if it's my last play. and whether it's 300 or 250 whatever the number is, I'm going to give every carry everything I have."

At fullback, John Kuhn's spot on the roster appeared to be in jeopardy at this time last year. Now, it's hard to imagine Kuhn not sticking around for another season. He made the season-saving block on Rodgers' division-winning touchdown pass at Chicago and, with his touchdown run against San Francisco, became the only player in the league to have scored at least one touchdown in each of the last five postseasons.

The question

One man's loss is another man's opportunity. That's the harsh reality of Franklin's injury. Running back is obviously a violent position. Lacy had the concussion and played through a sprained ankle. Starks matched his career high by playing in 13 games last season but has missed 29 of a possible 64 regular-season games in his four-year career. Harris missed all 16 games.

So it would seem unlikely that the Packers would take just three running backs into the regular season. Assuming Harris is the No. 3 back, who's No. 4? Michael Hill, who played in two games for the Packers as an undrafted rookie last year, is back after carrying nine times for 23 yards in a six-game stint with Tampa Bay. Rajion Neal and LaDarius Perkins, who had solid careers at SEC schools Tennessee and Mississippi State, respectively, will challenge. Neal is particularly intriguing; at 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, he's got the size the Packers covet, and he had such good hands that Tennessee moved him to receiver early in his career.

Roster prediction

Lacy, Starks, Harris and Neal; Kuhn.

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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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