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Packers Notebook: Mike McCarthy Would Like to Get James Starks More Carries

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Packers Notebook: Mike McCarthy Would Like to Get James Starks More Carries

Eddie Lacy proved himself to be the workhorse back for the Green Bay Packers in Sunday's 44-31 win over the Minnesota Vikings when he carried the football 29 times for 94 yards despite James Starks' return to health.

Playing for the first time the Packers' Week 3 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals back on Sept. 22 when he suffered a knee injury, Starks took advantage of limited opportunities at the Metrodome.

In carrying the football seven times for 57 yards (8.1 ypc), including a 25-yard touchdown dash in the fourth quarter, Starks may have convinced head coach Mike McCarthy to be a bigger part of the Packers' gameplan moving forward.

"If you sit here and draw stuff up on a napkin, you'd probably want to balance it out a little more," said McCarthy on Monday. "But at the end of the day, you're in a game. Eddie was in a groove, so we stayed the way we did. Obviously it worked out well.

"When James got his opportunity, I thought he jumped in there and made an impact. He ran hard downhill, didn't waste any steps, had good reads. That's why the attempts and things like that, you look at it week to week. I would like to have James Starks to get a few more carries."

The Packers likely wanted to easy Starks back into action after not seeing game action for more than a month. But with Johnathan Franklin perhaps in the doghouse after two early-season fumbles, Starks is looking like the best option to ease Lacy's workload.

Nelson in the Slot

Randall Cobb had been the Packers' primary slot receiver for most of last season and the early part of this year's schedule before he got injured. And Donald Driver had been holding down the fort at the slot for the better part of a decade before that.

But with Driver retired in the offeseason and Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley all missing yesterday's game due to injury, the Packers looked for Nelson to play more in the slot against the Vikings than he had in years.

"I think it was obvious we moved Jordy Nelson around more than he's traditionally done in the past," said McCarthy. "And the reality is Aaron does an excellent job of taking what the defense gives you but also taking advantage of a pre-snap read or matchup. Frankly, going into the game, I had anticipated getting Jordy in more targeted opportunities. That's just kind of the way the game fell."

Nelson ended up being targeted eight times, and caught seven of those passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

The most memorable of Nelson's receptions was a 76-yard catch and run from the right slot when he drew Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway in coverage, an obvious mismatch.

Myles White has gotten the bulk of snaps in the slot in the absence of Cobb, but with the success Nelson saw on Sunday, perhaps he'll be seeing more time in the slot, at least until Cobb comes back.

Lattimore Making a Statement

Jamari Lattimore received the highest grade of any Packers defender from ProFootballFocus.com on Sunday, partially due to helping to limit Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to just 60 yards and partially thanks to the pass rush provided by blitzing from his inside linebacker position.

With Brad Jones out nursing a hamstring injury the past three games, the Packers defense has hardly missed a beat with Lattimore playing at such a high level.

Soon, Jones will come back––perhaps as soon as the Packers' next game against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football––but what will happen to Lattimore.

"Brad's still going through his injury situation, hopeful that he can get back this week, that'd be great," said McCarthy. "Once again, I answer this question all the time, we play with more than 11 guys on offense, defense and special teams. It will be great to have them all back. We're looking forward to being in that situation."

If Lattimore ends up playing in a time share with Jones, or with A.J. Hawk for that matter, it would signal a change from the Packers' defensive game plan early in the season.

Lattimore hadn't played on defense prior to Jones' injury.

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 (17) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

larry valdes's picture

Sorry but you cant sit latimore maybe jones can play on passing down and sit hawk.

jeremy's picture

Never thought I'd say it but the way Hawk is playing he needs to stay on the field too. Nice problem to have, Jones was playing well when he got hurt. Francois was doing just fine too.

Derek's picture

I agree. Hawk needs to play and Lattimore is as good or better than Brad Jones. Sometimes an injury is nice because it allows a guy like Lattimore to step in and show what he can do, and I like what I've seen from him. He's a thumper.

greenscreen's picture

Eeeaasssyy guys. Brad Jones is a certified BEAST and was Pro Football Focus' top 10 linebackers prior to getting hurt. i like this Lattimore kid, too, but Jones is bigger, stronger and faster. He wont get his job taken.

The TKstinator's picture

Lots of teams use two backs to share the load. Lacy and Starks would appear to be a good 1-2 punch.

Way back when the Lions had Billy Sims, one of their coaches said in an interview that even though Sims was a great back, they made a concerted effort to avoid using him (as a ballcarrier or as a receiver) on both first AND second down.

Sounds like a precursor to the popular modern day approach of using two backs instead of one workhorse carrying 350 times in a season and risking either catastrophic injury or a grotesquely shortened career.

Modern day defenses beat the crap out of RB's like never before; 250 lb linebackers running 4.5, 300 plus pound d-linemen crushing RB's like aluminum cans? Share the load, share the pain, baby!

Mojo's picture

Noticed Starks gets to the edge much quicker than Lacy, but generally Lacy gets more out of nothing than Starks. Both have had good years so far. Think Lacy's shorter choppier strides will be a great benefit when the track gets sloppy. Also impressed that with the pounding Lacy took - no fumbles(knock on wood).

Fish crane's picture

Lacy caused his only fumble in a mistake I doubt he will so again. So many positives the cows udder is empty

Big Al's picture

Hope nobody forgets the part our fantastic defensive line is playing in the improved linebacker play. Its a lot easier to make plays when you don't have a 300+lb offensive lineman in your face for the whole game

casual fan's picture

It was obvious that Lacy was tired by the end of the game and McCarthy should have had Starks in. So much of the professional training program is designed to pace these guys rather than being drawn up on a napkin, and then you justify leaving Lacy in by saying he was in a groove? If it was a close game maybe, but it was garbage time and they just needed someone to eat up the clock.

I think this team has a real opportunity to do something in the playoffs this year and you'll want the RB's fresh.

Stroh's picture

If the Packers can get Lacy 20 carries and Starks 10-12, that would seem like a pretty suitable time share. Lacy should still be the workhorse, but gotta find a way to get Starks a few more carries.

Love what I've seen from Lattimore. IMO he has played better than Jones had before his injury. Would like to see Lattimore stay in the lineup but my guess is Jones is given the job back for now. But he'll have to step up his play to keep it.

I was rewatching the game last nite and saw something I hadn't noticed before. Hawk and Lattimore were used interchangeably. Hawk got more playmaking opportunities and made a couple good plays from the weak ILB spot. Including bursting thru a hole and taking Peterson down solo, for what looked like a loss or no gain. Was the 1st time I saw Hawk line up at weak ILB, he had always been predominantly the strong (left) ILB previously. Not sure how long that's been happening but seems I saw Hawk a few other times previously at weak ILB.

TommyG's picture

Good catch, Stroh. I hadn't noticed Hawk moving to the weak side until you mentioned it.

I'm looking forward to having Jones back so we can rotate those ILB for rest.

I bleed Green More's picture

I watched it a second time, Hawk cutting his hair and losing weight made him much faster.

TommyG's picture

29 carries is a lot for one back, but then again I doubt MM thought that we would end up running 71 plays over 41 minutes either. MM certainly has a new dynamic to work out when it comes to game planning; how to share carries amongst three good looking RBs. I guess it's a good problem to have but certainly not one that MM has had to deal with in a very long time, if ever.

Al Katraz's picture

What I never understood about MM is the running back situation. Hey I learned back in the 60's that its best to keep your running backs fresh by relieving them during the game.
Some coaches used to part a fresh back in during the fourth quarter when the defense was tired chasing the other guy.
For some reason MM plays the same guy over and over and it may be the reason for injuries.
He gets this one track mind of his and is too stubborn to change sometimes.

Steven's picture

Starks looked fast. But i still think part of his success in this game was because the defense was already tired because of lacy and vice versa

Nononsense's picture

Id like to see Starks get more carries too because he is extremely effective behind this new and improved offensive line. Now if they want to get Franklin more involved they should line him up as a WR on some plays not RB. He can definitely catch and is dangerous in space so why not.

I bleed Green More's picture

Give Franklin a few carries, even Kuhn we got to keep Lacy fresh.

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