What can continuity in the run game mean?
Look no further than last year’s Green Bay Packers.
During the first eight games of the season, the Packers ranked 24th with 97.5 rushing yards per game. Once Corey Linsley settled in at center, the running game flourished. In the final eight games, Green Bay averaged 142.1 rushing yards per game.
With all five linemen back, plus the one-two backfield punch of Eddie Lacy and James Starks, the Packers should be able to hit the ground running.
“It's big for us,” Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton said. “We always talk about the chemistry of the offensive line and how great it is to have five guys returning, but you build that chemistry with your running back. Obviously, our job doesn't change any from running back to running back, but you get a feel for a certain guy. I know Eddie is going to be a little bit more patient and then make his move. Whereas James, he's going to see the hole and just hit it as hard as he can. So, you definitely get in a rhythm with your guys when you can get as many games as we play. We've played 30-some games together so you definitely get a feel for each other.”
What might that mean for Lacy, whose 592 rushing yards over the final six games of last season ranked third in the league? He got off to a strong start against New England, with a 15-yarder highlighting his five-carry, 36-yard performance.
“It definitely helps because we're all on the same page,” Lacy said. “We all know how each other runs. You know when I'm in there, I'm pressing my track and I'm getting north and south as fast as possible. And they know when Starks is in there, he has the option of making steps and get up the field, taking it around the outside. They definitely have a good feel for both of us back there. It helps a lot being familiar with everybody.”
Lacy carried only 11 times last preseason. So, he’s almost halfway there. Clearly, there’s no need to give him 25 or 30 carries in the preseason to get him ready for the games that matter.
“I don’t think there’s a number you put on it,” Lacy said. “It’s just like a feeling. When I’m out there with them and we’re running around making plays, then you kind of feel like you’re on. Based off of last game, the way our offensive line blocked and the way I was able to hit the holes that they made for me, it seems like we’re kind of there.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.