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Entering Year 2 in the NFL, Eddie Lacy Is Faster, More Comfortable

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Entering Year 2 in the NFL, Eddie Lacy Is Faster, More Comfortable

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy by Benny Sieu—USA TODAY Sports.

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy by Benny Sieu—USA TODAY Sports.

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy possesses a super power and it has nothing to do with his patented spin move or running over unlucky defenders.

Lacy has the ability to erase your memory. He made you forget about his dreadful rookie debut last season.

It's almost hard to believe after a season in which he was named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year, but there was a time last season when Eddie Lacy struggled.

"In the beginning, I would definitely second guess myself a lot," said Lacy at last week's minicamp. "I wanted to be as close to perfect as possible. I didn't want to mess up. I didn't want to fumble the ball like I did in the first game."

Lacy might have scored a touchdown in his first ever NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1 of the 2013 season, but it was an otherwise uninspired performance.

In that matchup against the defending NFC champions, Lacy had 14 rushes for a pedestrian 41 yards, a measley 2.9 yards per carry.

The Packers lost that game to the 49ers, 34-28, and it was Lacy's fumble that was particularly costly. With the game tied 7-7 and the Packers backed up to their own 10-yard line in the second quarter, 49ers linebacker Navorro Bowman jarred the ball loose from Lacy. The Niners recovered and scored five plays later to take a seven-point lead.

Really, the first three games of Lacy's career were rather forgettable. In Week 2 against Washington, he carried the football just one time before suffering a concussion and missing the rest of the game and the following week against Cincinnati altogether.

Thankfully, the Packers had a bye Week 4, an opportunity for Lacy recover from injury and put those first three weeks behind him.

"As the season went along, things slowed down for me and got a little bit simpler and I was able to play to my natural ability at that point to be a rookie," said Lacy.

The Alabama product appeared rejuvenated after the bye. From Week 5 onward, Lacy rushed for 1,121 of his 1,178 yards, caught 34 of his 35 passes and didn't fumble the rest of the way. Lacy finally started to look like the player in which the Packers invested a second round draft choice.

Following his award-winning rookie campaign, Lacy is now a household name. Expectations are that he rushes for more than 1,000 yards on an annual basis and is a perennial Pro Bowler.

As Lacy took part in his second minicamp last week, he felt more equipped to live up those lofty expectations.

"I feel a lot better," said Lacy. "I'm moving faster; I'm playing faster because I can comprehend what's going on faster. I don't have to second guess myself.

"I don't have to look at the quarterback and ask him if I'm doing the right thing or look at coach and pretty much just slow myself down. Now that I have a year under my belt I can process everything a lot faster and play the way I know how to play."

To keep Lacy effective in 2014 and beyond, part of the burden falls on the Packers organization. From all indications, the coaches have done their part in the teaching department. The next part is keeping him healthy and not wearing down.

After all, as a 230-pound bowling ball, Lacy is exposed to his fair share of hits.

"I like to think Eddie puts the beating on. I think he's beating people up the way he runs," said head coach Mike McCarthy during the team's offseason program. "But I think you have to be conscientious of everything that goes on with your football team. The mileage any player is putting on their body and really what's going on with not only the snaps he's playing but the wear and tear.

"So yeah, we're conscious of all that. We regulate everything: the snaps every player plays on offense, defense and special teams."

One way in which the Packers plan to limit Lacy's snap count is to spell him with backup James Starks.

In the offseason the Packers signed Starks to a two-year, $3.25 million contract, a deal that took on added significance in light of the recent release of Johnathan Franklin following a neck injury last season.

As good as Lacy was last season, Starks was nearly as effective, albeit in fewer opportunities. His 5.5 yards per carry was the highest in the NFL for any player with more than 50 rushes.

With Plan B in place, Lacy can just be Lacy. He's more comfortable in the team's offense entering Year 2 and with Starks behind him, he doesn't have the weight of the world on his shoulders.

"I'm definitely more focused, but I'm also more relaxed," said Lacy. "I'm not tensed. I'm not trying to be too fast or too slow. If I make a mistake, I'm not killing myself over it."

The release of Franklin also seems to have had an influence on Lacy.

Lacy might be able to absorb hits and play through pain like he did late last season, fighting through an ankle injury. But after seeing up close what happened to Franklin, Lacy isn't taking his career for granted.

Asked how he stays hungry following the success of 2013, Lacy said, "Just not wanting to let my teammates down. And this is game that you never know when it's going to be taken away from you, so just being able to be that guy that my team can depend on when necessary."

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (29) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Ibleedgreenmore's picture

I like it, hard to remember how rough the first few games were. If he had stayed healthy all year man the sky is the limit with this kid.

DrealynWilliams's picture

Missed games AND played with a bum ankle. I think this guy is the truth. I just really hope that MM shares more of his carries this go 'round. Let's put stats to the side and focus on having Lacy the most efficient when it really matters.

The TKstinator's picture

What I really like is the "pick your poison" aspect he and #12 offer. I also like the depth that Starks and Harris provide.

Stroh's picture

I agree... Its gonna be really hard for teams to stay back in 2 deep safeties and play the Packers straight up or for the pass. Having a great QB and a great running game really stresses the Defense. If they play 7 in the box, Lacy Starks and co will pound on them down after down and create long time consuming drives. But they certainly can't attack the box w/ extra defenders to stop the run or Rodgers and the passing game will make them pay. Its just a no-win for the Defense! Packers are gonna be impossible to defend if Lacy and Rodgers are healthy.

RC Packer Fan's picture

That is exactly why I am excited for the season.

I think this will be the most balanced offense the Packers have had in a long time.
I am really looking forward to seeing Lacy and Rodgers play together for a full season.

DrealynWilliams's picture

We had the balance last season. It just wasn't consistent and the execution was so damn sloppy at times. I believe I was irate every first quarter of every game last season.

RC Packer Fan's picture

The first part of the season Lacy was still learning how to play. When he started becoming the RB we saw was after Rodgers was out.

We didn't see Rodgers and Lacy together again until week 17 and playoff game.

I am looking forward to seeing Rodgers and Lacy together for an entire season. Allow them to get into a good rhythm.

COW's picture

Don't worry... McCarthy will neutralize his team's perceived offensive advantage by using lack of imagination, vanilla - like formations, and personnel mismanagement to make the "playing field more even".

He's such a good sport.

MarkinMadison's picture

See Cow, it's posts like these that make it hard to defend you.

COW's picture

Don't need your defense.
Thanks, though.

I have a strong feeling that there will be quite a few times during the season when WE (not just I) will be asking... "why did they stop running the ball?".

DrealynWilliams's picture

You're absolutely right. I'll be one of them. One game I think about is the Ravens game.

Stroh's picture

All you "experts" will be doubting or second guessing the play calls. All you "experts" always do. Even tho you don't really know what the F your talkin about!

We know you won't stop acting like you KNOW better playcalling than the real experts tho!

Your a wannabe football expert and that's all you'll ever be.

Put that in your formula and suck it!

DrealynWilliams's picture

*crickets*

Are you done?

Stroh's picture

That was a reply to CowShitForBrains not you.

And yes, I am done w/ that topic, if that's what you mean.

PackerBacker's picture

OK, I realize that this is going to sound like some stone-cold hearted shit, but ...

Do you guys think the NFL has gotten to the point where it isn't beneficial for teams to sign runningbacks to big contracts after their rookie contracts run out?

What I'm asking is, should the Packers set a max cap number that they are willing to pay a RB and not go over that number, no matter how good the RB is? Are they better off running the piss out of Lacy over the next 4 years (with the 5th yr option) and then trying to sign him for 5-6 mill / yr? Either way, in year 4, you draft a 1st or 2nd round RB who can replace him.

My reason is
A) How many RB's have been the reason why their team goes the distance in the last decade (it's always the QB that is the key)
B) How many runningbacks are truly productive past their first 5 year in the league (percentage-wise, it's low)
C) If you move on, is the drop-off to the next draft pick enough that you will actually crush the teams prospects.

I would say, that they Pack would be better off using Lacy for the next 4 years as much as possible, then moving on to the next RB and not re-signing Lacy.

Cold, I know.

Evan's picture

No, I think you're right. Paying a RB huge money is a poor investment.

Lacy is 24. When he starts his 2nd contract, he'll be 27. That's still in his prime, but you just don't pay a RB big money as he creeps that close to 30.

(Also, as a second round pick, there is no 5th year option for Lacy.)

But we have plenty of time to worry about that later. Right now we should all just enjoy the ride.

Stroh's picture

I think they'll probably offer Lacy a 2nd contract if its a team friendly deal that they can get out from under. At 27 yrs old he'll probably want a big contract so it may be unlikely he's going to accept what the Packers will be willing to give him.

Big money RB are just not worth it. They can try to cut down on his touches to save him a little. The other thing that might work in Lacy's favor, is that he hasn't been used much in college or the NFL, so his timeline might be extended by an extra year or 2.

COW's picture

RB's are disposable.

Only portion of your comment that I disagree with is...
"...you draft a 1st or 2nd round RB who can replace him."

No reason to spend that high of a pick.

PackerBacker's picture

I'll give you that. Maybe not first, but late 2nd or 3rd is normally talented enough to make an impact.

Evan's picture

Exactly. Outside of an Adrian Peterson type, first round RBs are a thing of the past.

MarkinMadison's picture

"Are they better off running the piss out of Lacy over the next 4 years...?"

This is the part I disagree with. You still want him functioning for as much of each season over the next four years as you can. It makes sense to rotate carries, keep him fresh, and lessen the risk of injury. I think the new metrics approach to injury prevention bears this out. It is better for the team, and better for the player, unless your drop off from #1 RB to #2 RB is too big. As long as Starks is healthy I don't think that is the case in Green Bay.

PackerBacker's picture

I'd agree with that.

COW's picture

Hey - Jordy doesn't have a contract yet...
Could I be right again?

Jordy's last year as a Packer... hope he makes it a good one.

Evan's picture

Again? I think you mean, "for the first time, ever."

PS: Crowing about Nelson's contract future on June 25th is a little like high-stepping from your own 35 yard line.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Also, what does anything about Nelson have to do with the title of the headline "Entering Year 2 in the NFL, Eddie Lacy Is Faster, More Comfortable" ?

Not that everyone doesn't go off topic, but what does Nelson's contract have to do with Lacy?

MarkinMadison's picture

Nothing, and it is not a story by itself, as Evan points out. I'm not going to think twice about Jordy's contract until he makes a statement to the press along the lines of, "I don't want to be distracted by contract talks during the season."

COW's picture

I think Jordy (or his agent) was a genius to put statements like... "we don't want to play anywhere else" or "we love it here"out into the public.

He's put the ball entirely into the Packers' court.

If a signing doesn't happen, a lot of fans will wonder... "Why did the Packers let him go? He wanted to stay!"

Clay Zombo's picture

When Eddie Lacy was drafted and after I watched every snap I could find of his, I remember stating that I thought he was a more talented and a better RB than both Trent Richardson and Ingram who were both 1st round picks before him.

People laughed or told me I was smoking crack because Richardson was a top 5 pick. Don't see any reason to back off that statement now, do you?

From my perspective, we got to see what Lacy and Starks could do in this new and improved running attack but the guy im most excited about this year is DuJuan Harris. The element he brings to the offense is quickness which the other two guys lack.

I know with him being 3rd on the depth chart that he won't get a ton of touches this year but the ones he does get will be impactful and they are going to find it hard to keep the guy off the field.

Its a beautiful thing isn't it, this 3 headed monster we now have at RB...

Stroh's picture

I honestly don't remember if I thought Richardson and Ingram were more talented. I may have and if I did you could count me as wrong. I do know that I said I wouldn't draft him in the 1st Rd, but was fine w/ a 2nd rd choice at any point. That was partly due to his injury issues and partly that I don't consider him to be a "special" RB that I would use a 1st on. Very few RB's IMO are worthy of a 1st rd pick anymore.

Lacy is outstanding and a perfect fit for the Packers (which I said repeatedly), whether he proves to be "special" is yet to be determined IMO, but I'm not there yet.

I hope Harris can prove to be the KR/PR this year. That would be a perfect fit for the Packers needs. I don't see him getting much playing time on offense this year tho. Lacy and Starks are going to get the lions share of the offensive snaps/touches.

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