It would sure seem that way.
When asked at his afternoon press conference if rookie running back James Starks was “…ready to come up” McCarthy responded:
Well, he’d better be. He may have an opportunity this week.
After the press conference, running backs coach Edgar Bennett expanded on Starks in general and his possible playing time this weekend against the 49ers:
He continues to get better. … He needs to continue to work on his fundamentals and get comfortable with what we’re asking him to do. It’s been extremely positive. All of the situations we’ve put him in – certainly some extremely competitive – he’s stepped up to the challenge. We see this kid continue to improve. At some point, like coach mentioned, he’ll probably get an opportunity.
I am certainly intrigued to see what Starks can do. The Packers must think he has some real talent to have even kept him on the 53 after his stint on the PUP. But McCarthy is right – he better be ready, especially in pass protection. Fans have been clamouring for Starks (trust me – my Twitter and email confirm this) Many don’t understand what the hesitation is in playing the rookie out of Buffalo.
The problem, as it always is when it comes to the Packers and Mike McCarthy’s offense, is pass protection. McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin are fanatical about ensuring that the protections and those assigned to them are rock solid before sending them out onto the field. Many fans wondered what took so long to get Dimitri Nance on the field – I can guarantee you his ability to demonstrate that he had the pass protection calls down cold was high on the list of reasons. The same goes for James Starks.
The other much-discussed reason for the Packers cautious stance with Starks is the lack of game action he has seen. The kid put football pads on for the first time in two years just over two weeks ago. Most players need at least a good week to get acclimated to the hitting of training camp, and what Starks has been getting in practice doesn’t even come close to the hitting he would have seen in camp, let alone in preseason games. An undoubted worry for the Packers is that Starks, with his upright running style, will simply take too much punishment too quickly.
All that said, the Packers seem enamored with some aspect of his game. Philbin, while noting the upright running, cited Starks’ hands and “…instincts that are hard to teach and hard to drill into somebody.” It’s hard not to get excited about that, but if Starks misses so much as a quick chip on a linebacker Sunday, you can bet McCarthy will put him right back on the bench.