Given how last season transpired, it’s easy to forget just how good Eddie Lacy has been for the Green Bay Packers.
Even after slumping to merely 758 rushing yards last season, Lacy ranks 38th in NFL history with 3,075 rushing yards through his first three seasons. Had Lacy posted his third consecutive season of 1,100-plus yards, he’d be flirting with a spot in the top 20. As it is, Lacy ranks ahead of Hall of Famers Gale Sayers (2,978 rushing yards), Marshall Faulk (2,947), Marcus Allen (2,879) and Franco Harris (2,759).
“Going through the drills that we do, It’s almost amazing to see a guy with that type of size that has feet like that and can change direction,” new running backs coach Ben Sirmans said.
Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards as a rookie and 1,139 yards in 2014, giving him a two-year total of 2,317 yards that ranks 24th in NFL history. He’s one of 16 backs with 2,300 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns in his first two seasons.
Lacy’s third season, however, was a bust. Lacy started the season slowly, which he had in each of his previous seasons. However, in Games 5 through 8 in 2013 and 2014, Lacy averaged 89.1 rushing yards per game with a total of six touchdowns. In 2015, he rushed for a total of 78 yards with one touchdown. Moreover, he was demoted for a curfew violation before the game at Detroit and fumbled four times — matching his career total.
His battle with the bulge has been well-documented, but it’s hard to say if weight was the major reason for his limited production. Without Jordy Nelson, defenses were free to crowd the line of scrimmage to focus on taking away Lacy and the short passing game. At times, defenses kept their base defense on the field vs. the Packers’ three-receiver sets to ensure Lacy couldn’t get rolling. So, there was no room for Lacy to run, and Lacy wasn’t capable of creating something out of nothing.
“My first two years, I pretty much did whatever I wanted,” Lacy said. “Last year, same thing, just different results. It’s something I crossed, I’m glad earlier than later. You learn it and keep going.”
Lacy is entering his final season under contract, so he has ample reason to return for training camp in prime physical condition. He should find plenty of room to operate as defenses will have to be wary of the Packers’ deep passing game with the return of Nelson and the addition of tight end Jared Cook. With another season of 1,100-plus yards, Lacy’s career total would be around 4,500 yards — a four-year tally accomplished by only 26 running backs in NFL history. Ryan Grant ranks fifth on the Packers’ career rushing list with 4,143 rushing yards and Hall of Famer Tony Canadeo ranks fourth with 4,197 yards, so Lacy is poised to enter the history books.
“The biggest thing with Eddie is me having a chance to watch a lot of his film, us sitting down together and just going through certain things that I put together,” Sirmans said. “He understands what he’s capable of doing and that wasn’t the type of year that he wanted. And really it was just explaining to him how good I think he can be and making sure that I push him, and he wants to do well.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.