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 JOHN CROCKETT
Of the three backs in the No. 3 competition, Crockett comes with the biggest credentials. In three seasons at North Dakota State, Crockett helped the Bison win three FCS national championships. As a senior, he rushed for almost 2,000 yards and topped 2,400 all-purpose yards. Scoff at the competition, but he impressed his peers enough to be voted a team captain for the prestigious East-West Shrine Game.
During the final day of the minicamp, Crockett sustained an ankle injury that held him out for the first week of training camp. That immediately put him behind the eight-ball.
“I’m definitely getting opportunities to showcase (my talents) and to be out there playing focused, playing with leadership and being meticulous when it comes to certain plays and just knowing how to figure out that this is the NFL; this isn’t college anymore,” Crockett said.
At 6 foot and 217 pounds, Crockett boasts a different skill-set than bruising Alonzo Harris (6-1, 237) and sure-handed Rajion Neal (5-11, 220). During a couple of practices last week, Crockett used spin moves to break into the open field.
“I definitely try to do it whatever I can to win my one-on-one matchups, if it’s a spin, if I have to be physical and try to run you over,” Crockett said. “I like to take what the defense gives you. That’s my mind-set. It’s definitely fun to be out there and try to do what you’ve done your whole life playing this football game.”
In two preseason games, Crockett rushed 12 times for 32 yards (2.7 average) and caught three passes for 23 yards (7.7 average), including a 12-yard touchdown against the Patriots. If there’s a long shot among the trio, it’s Crockett. But one well-timed spin move in a game could be all the difference in a battle without anything resembling a clear front-runner.
“You do have a sense of pressure because you know it’s coming down to the time,” Crockett said. “You don’t really have a lot of luxury anymore. But then you have a certain excitement because you’re excited to be playing another game and being blessed to be in the National Football League. Then you also have a little bit of nervousness. Then you have a side of you that’s like, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do this. I’ve got my opportunity. Now it’s time to make the best of it.’ It all falls down on your shoulders at the end of the day. If you’re able to look at yourself in the mirror and know that you gave it everything you got, no matter the outcome, you should be pretty happy.”
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.