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Breaking Down James Starks

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Breaking Down James Starks

Fantastic post from Matt Waldman looking at everybody's favorite Packers running back.

Money quote:

Starks out-performed veterans Jackson and Kuhn despite missing nearly two years of football. The Packers relied on Starks, a player who missed 95 percent of his first training camp as a pro and all of his senior year, during the most important games for this organization in over a decade. Starks may not have been consistent with his performance, but he was still the better option over players who were in multiple training camps, practiced, and played with the the team for years.

Wouldn’t this lead you to consider that Starks’ lack of consistency stems from not practicing and playing for nearly two years and not a lack of skill?

Even if you argue that Starks’ work ethic was called out late in the regular season, wouldn’t it also be safe to assume that Starks did enough to correct that problem to satisfy the Packers coaches, earning their confidence to rely on him in three playoff games and a Super Bowl? If it isn’t a safe assumption that Starks improved his work ethic then wouldn’t the use of Starks despite a questionable work ethic would indicate that his talent was too great for the coaching staff to bench him during the playoffs?

Either way you view it, you’re looking at a player with better than average skill.

It leads me to believe that as long as Starks works hard, the rust will come off. As a result, he’ll process the game faster and his quicker reactions will allow him to play to his physical potential. Remember, Starks is also still new to the position and he gained nearly 20 pounds of muscle between the end of his junior year and his rookie season in the NFL.

In other words, the Packers leading playoff rusher last year was basically playing a new position in a new league with a new team and essentially in a new body.

That’s a lot of change for player. Given those circumstances I’d say he performed well.

Read the entire post. It is as exhaustive as it is excellent.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (14) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Mojo's picture

Starks should be one of those guys who elevates his game from the previous year.

He was the reason I was glad the Pack did not move up to draft Ingram.

Nerdmann's picture

Kiper had him ranked as the #2 RB in the country behind only CJ Spiller before the injury. Unfortunate when the injury occured, causing him to miss the whole season, but it's not something that is going to permanently diminish his skill set.
As for the "work ethic" thing, I always figured MM was trying to save him as a "secret weapon" for the playoffs.

Norman's picture

"basically playing a new position in a new league with a new team and essentially in a new body"

Except for the new body part, this could apply to Sam Shields as well. I expect to see Shields make the dramatic year 1 to year 2 improvement you often see in rookies, but magnified in his case by the fact that he's still learning the position since he only played it one year in college. It's amazing he essentially started the Super Bowl (I know he was the nickel back but he's essentially a starter in the Packers defense) in his second year playing arguably one of the 2-3 hardest positions to master in football (plus he was a critcal factor in the NFC Championship Game). Just look at all the Ahmad Carroll, Joey Thomas types we've gone through the past decade.

PackersRS's picture

So, you're basically saying, expect Sam Shields to turn into Deion Sanders in his prime, is that it?

Majik Man's picture

How the heck did you turn what he just wrote into Deion Sanders in his prime? Fortunately, it's off the wall enough to know you're just being sarcastic, but still, how did you even come close to that? :P

MarkinMadison's picture

Sometimes athletes can take a step backwards too, as they try to master new techniques, kill old habits, and put the whole package together. You can also bet that guys like Mike Martz and Lovie Smith have spent their free time this off season looking for holes in their game, and Bulaga's too. Not saying that they won't all be better this year, but there is a reason why the term "Sophomore slump" exists. I'd also be a lot more positive about the "dramatic improvement" expectation if they had spent the off-season with their position coaches. So I'll be happy if they are even marginally better than they were last year. Man though, what an awesome class this could turn out to be, with five guys who look like starters: Bulaga, Shields, Starks, Burnett and Neal. Sweet.

Oppy's picture

Great point about the draft class, Mark..

I don't want to homer this up to much, but really, why leave out Quarless, and Wilson? These guys clearly have the talent, even if it was not actualized on the field quite yet.

Newhouse is the one guy that we as fans have not seen enough of, though some scouts had him as one of the top sleepers of the 2010 draft, so who knows?

Surprised I haven't seen more speculation about the 2010 draft class like this. It really could be special.

fishandcrane's picture

I called Starks the "Ring Maker" in October ...and he is.

IdiotFan's picture

I still can't believe, given all the time off that he had, that he didn't fumble once in the playoffs. They always say that you just can't simulate game hitting, so I figured he would put one or two on the ground before he caught up. But he never did, much to my delight!

ct Sharp Cheddar's picture

He carries the ball the right way ,high and tight.The way Tiki Barber did after he solved his fumbling problems.

BrianD's picture

Wow, what a great article! I'd like to see more stat analysis though. Sometime during the playoffs, I think it was just after the championship game, somebody ran the numbers on Starks and he wasn't really much of an improvement over Jackson & Kuhn.

I know, I know, I sound like I'm trying to pick on the guy, but if anybody out there has a background in dealing with advanced metrics, I'd like to see how Starks compares to the rest of the league (and Grant) based on the small sample size he was used in last year.

Clearly, the numbers won't tell everything about him, especially all the skills that are required of a running back (which this article tackles in depth) and the improvement Starks will make from year 1 to year 2.

frosty's picture

An article by the same guy, check out #9:
http://mattwaldmanrsp.com/2011/05/30/losing-your-football-innocence/

I like stats as much as the next guy but I would wager that without much to go on the Pack wasn't really able to (or didn't trust him enough to) scheme around his abilities all that much. Like MarkinMadison touched on, they still won't have seen a lot come the start of this year but maybe the additional time with last year's tape will help.

Nononsense's picture

I think the Packers Oline is the biggest factor in terms of our RBs consistancy. If there is no hole to too run through or the RB is being contacted in the backfield, any RB in the league would struggle to consistantly get positive yards.

My favorite thing about Starks is that 8 times out of ten he doesn't go down on first contact. He may not be real fast or fluid for that matter but he has good vision, can get the tough yards and he can break those all important 20+ yard runs.

Hes a fit for the ZBS a one cut and get downhill runner. Kuhn and Grant also fit that mold, whereas Jackson just does not.

I have high hopes for Alex Green as our new 3rd down back. A guy who can protect the QB and bust some nice runs on the old draw or screen play. Im looking forward to having 3 good backs for next season to go along with our deadly passing game.

Damn, I can't wait for football to get going again.

frosty's picture

Kuhn can cut??

I actually agree completely regarding styles...I don't know much about Alex Green but here's hoping you're right. One of my biggest worries is what we'll do for pass pro from that position if we let Jackson walk.

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