Maybe Tom Clements had no interest in answering the question.
Or perhaps he was the telling the God’s honest truth.
After back-to-back seasons of 1,100 rushing yards, why is Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy no longer good enough to play for half the game?
“I don’t have an answer for you,” Clements, the Packers’ associate head coach and play-caller, said one day after Lacy carried the ball just five times for 10 yards in a 37-29 loss at Carolina.
During the Fox broadcast of Sunday’s game, commentator Troy Aikman suggested Packers coach Mike McCarthy is losing patience in Lacy and that he’d bring in James Starks if Lacy got off to a slow start. Sure enough, Lacy rushed once for minus-1 on the opening drive and Starks was in the game on the second drive.
On Monday, McCarthy wouldn’t confirm he made those comments during the usual Saturday meeting with the broadcast team.
DID YOU KNOW THAT PACKER REPORT MEMBERS get exclusive content, such as our famous World’s Best Preview, the members-only forums for more insiders content, 10 percent ticket discounts and more?
“My job’s getting our players ready and, if they’re going through a tough spot, to try to make them better,” McCarthy said. “I’m not losing patience with anybody. I love this football team. This is a great bunch of guys. They don’t come much better than Eddie Lacy. He’s an excellent teammate. He’s happy go lucky. There’s things he’s not doing very well right now, and he’s working to correct them, and it’s my job to help him.”
Lacy’s dramatic slump is one of the great mysteries of the football season. At the season’s midpoint, he is on pace for 616 rushing yards, a 3.7-yard average and four touchdowns. Last season, he rushed for 1,139 yards, averaged 4.6 yards per carry and ran for nine touchdowns. Beyond that, according to Pro Football Focus, Lacy has broken nine tackles on running plays and is averaging 2.2 yards after contact. Last season, he averaged 2.8 after contact and broke a whopping 49 tackles on running plays.
McCarthy has said Lacy’s weight and his conditioning are not issues. On Monday, Clements and offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett again brought up Lacy’s health. Lacy, however, hasn’t been on the injury report for a few weeks, though he did drop out of the second half of the Carolina game with a groin injury.
“I know Eddie strives to be productive,” Clements said. “Obviously, when he’s in there, defenses are keying on him because of his production in the past. We’re hopeful his health continues to improve and he plays well.”
Lacy got off to a decent start last season, then dominated down the stretch by rushing for at least 97 yards in five of the final six regular-season games. Will he even get that chance this year? Starks has a team-high 334 rushing yards and is averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Lacy has fumbled twice in the past three games. His fumble at Carolina sent him to the bench for half the game.
However, Green Bay must get the running game going because it has been killed with one third-and-long after another. On Sunday, 13 of Green Bay’s first-down plays gained 0 yards or lost yardage. A productive Lacy could change everything.
“It’s very important because he’s an outstanding player,” Bennett said. “We want our players to continue to grow, to continue to grow on a daily basis and he plays a big part in that, no different than each and every one of our players. We want them to continue to improve. And obviously health plays a role in that, but moving forward we feel good about Eddie Lacy and the production that he’s going to give us.”
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.