By: Bill Tewes
After injuring his ankle in the third quarter of Green Bay’s win against the New York Giants, Packers running back Eddie Lacy’s status for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys is still up in the air. In this morning’s press conference, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said, “He’ll be in the rehab today and we’ll see how he moves around.” McCarthy has additionally stressed throughout the week that the injury is “not serious”.
Lacy’s murky injury status leaves a lot of question marks regarding Sunday’s matinee versus a team that is gaining a lot of momentum early in the season, the Dallas Cowboys. The only other active running back on Green Bay’s roster at the moment is James Starks, who has had a monumentally rough start to the 2016 season. The Packers cannot rely on Starks’ atrocious 1.8 yards per carry especially against a Dallas defense that is not stout against the run, but ranks 12th overall in the NFL. They certainly will not expect fullback Aaron Ripkowski to shoulder the load, but he will definitely be in the mix for carries and goal line work if Starks is the starter.
The Packers are in a real pinch at the moment because they have no running backs other than Lacy and Starks with NFL experience. John Crockett was third in line before he was put on IR just before the season started. Green Bay brought in former Saints running back CJ Spiller a few weeks ago for a workout, but Spiller signed with the Seattle Seahawks. Another option at their disposal was recently released Ravens half-back Justin Forsett, but he just signed with the Detroit Lions as of today.
All signs are pointing toward the team activating practice squad running back Don Jackson to the 53-man roster if Lacy cannot go. Jackson, an undrafted free agent out of Nevada, ran a 4.5 40 time at the combine and stands in at 5’ 10” and 205 pounds. Jackson brings a different run style to a Packers’ backfield that is seemingly exclusively bruiser backs. Jackson has an interesting story on his road to the NFL and could be a wild-card for the Packers this year. A scat back type could pay dividends for Rodgers and also give McCarthy more play-calling options.
Green Bay will most definitely need to lean on the run game, even against a banged up Dallas secondary. They had a favorable match-up last week against New York and even though the offense clicked in the first half, it was completely bogged down in the second half. Rodgers missed a lot of throws and multiple receivers were credited with drops. In order to beat a team like Dallas, who is on the rise and riding a lot of momentum coming into this game, McCarthy and company will have to bring an effective run game Sunday afternoon.
Next year’s draft will be essential for Thompson and McCarthy to take a good look at the running back class and get a complimentary back to Eddie Lacy. It is evident that James Starks has regressed and Starks will have to show that he is capable of being a quality #2 back in order for him to remain in the NFL, or even on a roster this season. The running back situation in Green Bay is an unnecessary problem that the Packers now have to potentially address (a perhaps even address throughout the rest of the season) with either Starks as the starter or going with an undrafted free agent in Jackson. More to come as Lacy progresses through rehab.