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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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