After watching Lacy struggle since spraining his ankle in Week 2, the coaching staff essentially played a hunch. James Starks found out he was starting in the huddle before the first play of Sunday’s game.
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“James being out there the first series is a production of the way he’s played,” coach Mike McCarthy explained Monday, via the Green Bay Press Gazette.
“I would have liked to see us run the ball a lot more if you were going to draw up the game and play it differently,” McCarthy said. “That part didn’t work out that way, but James, obviously, had a huge day.”
Although Lacy told reporters Sunday night that his ankle was “all right,” McCarthy shot down speculation Monday that conditioning might be behind the power back’s sluggish running.
“Eddie is like pretty much our whole football team,” McCarthy added. “He was beat up.”
Offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett echoed that sentiment, acknowledging that Lacy is “banged up.”
“Going back to just getting healthy. That’s the No. 1 thing,” Bennett said of Lacy. “Once he comes back [from the Week 7 bye], he’ll probably feel a lot better.”
McCarthy emphasized that the Packers are a “one-two punch team” and they are “not really interested in running our running backs 20, 25 times a game.”
“If one of them gets hot in a game,” McCarthy continued, “then they may carry it 20 times.”
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because McCarthy called out Lacy early last season, announcing publicly that his starter “needs to play better.”
Running backs coach Sam Gash went on to outline a backfield timeshare in mid-October.
“To keep them fresh, I think is very important,” Gash said at the time. “James has warranted playing time.”
Through six games a year ago, Lacy was averaging 3.86 yards per carry and had just one game over 90 yards from scrimmage.
Through six games this year, he’s averaging 3.89 yards yards per carry and has two games over 90 yards from scrimmage.
After putting fantasy heads through the ringer early in 2014, Lacy went on to become the only player in the league to exceed 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the season’s final nine games, totaling 1,111 yards and nine touchdowns over that stretch. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and 10.0 yards per reception from Week 5 through the end of the regular season.
McCarthy’s hot-hand approach led to 20 Lacy touches per game from mid-October through the season-ending loss to the Seahawks.
That should serve as a useful reminder that at peak-form Lacy is a much better player than Starks, who would be averaging 3.56 yards per carry without benefit of that 65-yard run versus an over-pursuing defense.
If Lacy is healthy coming out of the bye, he’s going to be the featured back in Green Bay over the final two months of the regular season.