In the case to be the Green Bay Packers’ No. 3 running back, the closing arguments begin on Saturday night.
Starting from Day 1 of the offseason all the way through this week’s training camp practices, Rajion Neal almost always has been the next man up behind Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Nothing, however, has been settled. Saturday’s game against the Eagles, Tuesday’s practice and Thursday’s game against the Saints will determine who – if anyone – wins the job.
“They’re all displaying good things but they’re still rookies and haven’t done anything,” running backs coach Sam Gash said recently. “The trust with any of them is still not there. We’ll have to see if it gets there.”
THE CASE FOR ALONZO HARRIS
At 6-foot-1 and 237 pounds, Harris is a big man. For comparison, Eddie Lacy is listed at 5-foot-11 and 234 pounds. Harris used his size to rush for 3,300 yards and 44 touchdowns at Louisiana-Lafayette.
The Packers like big backs because their running style translates to the type of fields typical in December. More than that, protection is the priority in the passing game.
“It definitely fits in this offense well with Eddie Lacy,” Harris said of his size. “You have to be able to protect the quarterback being a running back here. To do that, going against defensive linemen and some of the best linebackers, you have to be physical. It’s no pitty-pat game protecting Aaron Rodgers. You have to progress on that and put your eyes in the right places.”
In the preseason opener at New England, Harris rumbled 25 yards for a touchdown. You probably would have scored on that play, with receiver Ty Montgomery’s block taking out three defenders. Against Pittsburgh, he dropped two passes – including a beautifully set up screen that would have been a big gain.
In the two games, he’s carried eight times for 44 yards. Other than the touchdown, he’s carried seven times for 19 yards and not created much yardage on his own. He figures to get a lot of work in these next two games to show what his power can do over a stretch of a few series.
“My thing is I need to take another step towards trying to put my name in that third spot,” Harris said. “To do that, I have to be consistent to be able to progress from where I was last week and just continue to get better.”
While “running” is the first word in the term “running back,” the Packers are set in the backfield with the dynamic one-two punch of Lacy and James Starks. The No. 3 role will be determined by pass protection, being assignment-sure and special teams. Harris thinks his size is an asset on special teams.
“You have to be physical on special teams,” Harris said. “We’re going against world-class athletes. Just to be able to get your hands on somebody, you have to be able to grunt with them, be able to be physical. This game is not for cowards. You’ve got to be able to have that mentality of, ‘I’m going to beat you before you can beat me.’ If you have that mentality, it will take you a long way.”
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.