With the Packers star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, sidelined with a collarbone fracture and the usually static Packers, now starting a different quarter back every week, the offense has fallen on to the rookie shoulders of Eddie Lacy.
The Packers second round pick in the 2013 draft, has rejuvenated the running game and been thrust into a dominant role on the offense.
The storyline has been the same that past two weeks: Get through time without Rodgers by hoping the new starting quarterback will be a game manager and Eddie Lacy can help carry the team. Whoever steps in for Rodgers, be it Wallace, Tolzien or newly signed Matt Flynn, they don’t need to be a hero, they just need to not screw it up. Part of that “not screwing it up” mantra relies on having a steady and productive running game.
Eddie Lacy is the Packers running game. Even with a healthy James Starks and fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin, Lacy accounts for a majority of the running game.
The Packers have run the ball 266 times so far this year, Lacy accounts for nearly 60% of them, having carried the ball 158 times.
In seven games this season, Lacy has been on the field for over 60% of the Packers offensive snaps, missing time in weeks two and three due to a concussion. Comparatively, in the five games he played, James Starks generally averages less than a quarter of the offensive snaps (in the two games that Lacy missed, Starks received more snaps at 86 and 40%).
Franklin sees the ball and the field even less. He has been active for all nine of the Packers games thus far this season, but has only seen action on offense five times, with three of those games having a playtime percentage of 10% or less.
Lacy is the Packers rushing attack.
And that is problematic.
NFL players often talk of the Rookie Wall. The theoretical wall their body hits around the end of November when college football is normally ending but when the NFL is gearing up for playoff runs.
So far, Lacy has shown no signs of slowing down, but his Rookie Wall could be bigger than others.
Last season at Alabama, Lacy played in 14 games, but only two of those games occurred after November 24th. In the regular season, the Packers will play five games after November 24th, and hopefully more in the post season.
At no time in 2012, or at all in his college career, did Lacy carry the ball more than 20 times in a game. His 2012 attempts per game average was 14.6. In the eight games he played in this season, he averages 19.75 attempts per game, and that includes week two when he was injured on his first carry and left the game.
In the past six games, Lacy has carried the ball for an average of 23.8 attempts per game. If the Packers give him the ball at that rate, he will have more carries by week 13 than he did all of last season.
That is a lot of wear on a back. And puts his risk of hitting a Rookie Wall higher.
The Packers are known to feed the hot hand, and that has been Lacy. But it might be in their best interest to start including Starks and Franklin into the mix. With the amount of time that Rodgers will be sideline unknown, and with the possibility of the playoffs still there, but getting smaller, the Packers will need Lacy to be his best week in and week out.
And if they run him into the ground, he might not be.
Jayme Snowden is a feature writer at CheeseheadTV and a contributor to Today’s TMJ4. She also co-hosts CheeseheadRadio, part of the Packers Talk Radio Network at Packertalk.com. You can contact her via twitter at @jaymelee1 or email at Jaymelee1@gmail.com.
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