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Starks: More Grant Than Gado

Sunday against the 49ers, James Starks took the first steps in a journey to show Packer fans why the team decided to keep him on the active roster rather than place him on season ending Injured Reserve.  No one would have faulted the Packers for shutting the kid down.

But clearly, Mike McCarthy and company saw something that intrigued them. They saw some real talent. And that talent was on display for everyone to see against the 49ers. Starks' 18 carries for 73 yards has to be considered a big surprise, given that the talk leading up to Sunday was that Starks might, if he was lucky, see some special teams duty. Instead, Starks' debut was the most by a Packers rookie running back in his first game since Ralph Earhart had 78 at Boston on Sept. 17, 1948.

McCarthy indicated in his post-game press conference that he had planned on getting Starks "8-10 carries", but it sure seemed that once McCarthy saw that the moment wasn't too big for the kid, he was willing to keep giving him the ball, especially at the end when the Packers went on the epic eight minute drive to seal the game.

There are still questions about Starks' game. He was only asked to pass block a handful of times and at least once seemed to shy away from contact on a blitz pickup. Also, the rookie wasn't asked to catch a pass, though with Brandon Jackson around that doesn't seem to be a problem. But going forward, you can bet McCarthy will start opening things up a bit for him and try to get him involved in the passing game.

But overall, Starks had a solid outing his first time out, against a very good run defense. The question is - will Starks take the road of a Ryan Grant, grabbing hold of the starting halfback job and becoming a real weapon in this offense? Or will he take the road of a Samkon Gado, a running back who flashed early only to fall back to Earth and be revealed as nothing more than a journeyman back?

From what I saw today, both live and after going back and looking at his eighteen carries again, I have to say I think Starks is much more Grant than Gado.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (35) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

packsmack25's picture

Thanks for articulating what I've essentially been insisting for weeks. He's more Grant than Gado. That's perfect.

BBalz's picture

Nice article. I believe he's more Grant than Gado as well. . . although I know I want him to be, the way he runs shows it.

He hits the hole and takes what's there and initiates contact. Whereas BJacks, as much as I love the guy. . .he dances east/west too much and hesitates. He seemed to be getting a hold of it but the last 2 games he shows signs of regression.

Either way, I think BJacks is amazing at 3rd down and blocking. . .what he has been doing until this year.

Starks and even Nance should be something special to make our running attack more than what it's been going into the playoffs.

Looking forward to seeing what Starks has in store for us Packer fans though. :)

M.S. Yacoob's picture

The most telling thing to me is 18 carries. That simply shows me that McCarthy thinks he's a better pure Running Back than Brandon Jackson. I still have to get my hands on the broadcast footage before I say anything about Starks, though.

Bogmon's picture

Now if only he could pass block like RAY RICE..wouldn't that be something?

alfredomartinez's picture

i was really impressed with this kid, good showing today...

Can you do me a Favre?'s picture

I woulda been upset had they IR'ed Starks unless he was too injured to play.

Put Bjax and Starks in on 3rd down! Then Arod can have 2 check downs.

For me seeing Starks run was the most exciting part of today's game. I hope he gets 20+ carries next week!

Chris's picture

Maybe he got the 18 carries because the Packers wanted to test him and throw him into the water a little more after the game was bascially decided.
Anyway, it would be great if he lives up to the expectations.

dane's picture

I liked Gado.

(but yeah, he wasn't very good)

Now. Do we think Starks is Edgar Bennet material?

DAWG's picture

Better strength than Grant, you could see defenders had a tough time bring down when stood up, stronger than any backs we have.
Like to see his pad level lower. Wish em luck

SpiderPack's picture

Agree!

Ruppert's picture

Nice thought on this article. There were a couple plays where Starks was indeed reminiscent of Ryan Grant. Great start--still a long way to go.

But will Starks have the Gado-esque presence of mind to intentionally fumble out of his own end zone to avoid a safety and key a win over the Lions? That's where the comparison will be defined...

zub-a-dub's picture

key with Starks, is to break him in slowly, keep it simple for him and maintain 8 to 12 reps a game, then (if we get to the playoffs) you can make a decision to go all out. MM used Starks, Kuhn, and Jackson perfectly against the 49ers.

IMO because of his unique situation ball security is a concern with him, its DEC and the Packers can't absorb rookie turnovers in this playoff race where the Packers are still outside looking in.

Clay Toporski's picture

Totally agree. MM finally put together a game plan that used all his rushing weapons effectively. It is incredible that it took this long for him to understand how to use each effectively (at least Kuhn and BJax).

Also agree on turnovers, but I have faith in the coaching staff. BJax has done a very good job with ball security this year. Don't see the coaches giving the ball to Starks if they don't believe he can hold on to the ball. MM's #1 pet peeve.

TPacker's picture

Together they kind of remind me of how the NY Giants utilized their three backs (Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, and Bradshaw) back in 2007. Together they can be pretty damn successful.

Jordan's picture

You can say he looked like RG all you want, but to me he looked more like AP, yeah that one. He runs very upright, but tacklers had trouble bringing him down and he moved so quickly. Lets not forget how much better the run blocking looked, that was an underrated part of this game.

Can't wait to re-watch this game.

JD's picture

I have been a Starks advocate for months now. Watching him finally play and play well I felt like a proud father watching the game. The more reps he gets, the better he will play.

JerseyCheese's picture

Going back and watching film on the game, I LOVE what I see out of Starks. Now maybe that's because I'm starting to think we finally have a runningback, but he did a great job. 49ers are tough against the run and Starks finished with solid numbers. He is tough to bring down and not ONE defender brought him down, it took a number of players. And he never fell backward, always fell forward.

My question: (because I was at the bar) Were the announcers saying he won't last or won't be a good running back because he runs too high?

CSS's picture

I didn't get the impression the announcers were saying either. They were trying to say RB's with that type of upright style find themselves perpetually on the 'probable' to 'questionable' list due to injuries. You really give defensive players a large target when you don't drop your shoulders.

PackersRS's picture

I've always known that the way to run the ball is to show only helmet and legs.

But one can't say Peterson uses that mold.

CSS's picture

Peterson is in his own universe. Without reservation, I can say the Packers are a better run-blocking team than the Vikings and have been for 2-3 years. Peterson is so good he makes a crap offensive line look good.

Even the great Peterson will eventually wear down and sustain injuries due to his style.

DAWG's picture

As much as I hate the queens, have to disagree on the better run blocking team ...!
OL - weakest link on the team,if you take all the injuries away.

thepretzelhead's picture

Kudos on the falling forward...that is the difference between average and good in running backs. He'll be our short yardage back soon- and be a threat to break 'em.

nerdmann's picture

He's just like Grant. Except he has vision, cutting ability, quickness, speed, can catch the ball. Etc.

thepretzelhead's picture

pass block

jdondlinger's picture

Starks body typre reminds me of Dickerson, Peterson and even Grant. Grant is not quite as tall ast Starks but they are similar and have similar running styles.

thepretzelhead's picture

More importantly than Starks...there seemed a real fire in the OL to get to hit rather than being hit all the time. If we get some nastiness out of the OL- wow.

DAWG's picture

Yeah-wow

Will tippet's picture

The real test will be if he can block and catch a pass. Otherwise he will be much less valuable as teams will figure if he is in they are running it 85 pct of the time. Plus BJack will not let A Rod get pummled like Romo did in Dallas ona missed blitz pick up.

jdondlinger's picture

I am a little concerned with his pass blocking. But not his pass catching. He was very good at Buffalo catching the ball out of the backfield and making plays. According to McCarthy during his morning presser, Starks graded out fine in the little pass blocking he did. He will have to keep working at it though.

Nerdmann's picture

Yeah, his pass catching is not in question. How far along he is in pass pro and picking up blitzes is another question. He's a big kid though, that will help.

Norman's picture

The guy he most reminded me of is Brandon Jacobs, from the Giants. If he can perform like the Jacobs of a few years ago (not so much this year), then imagine when RG gets back next year, not to mention J-Mike, and the new FB and TE we draft next year (just joking on that, I hope!).

TPacker's picture

This article written by "respected Packer Watcher Aaron Nagler" was quoted in another article by rotoworld.com. Props Aaron.

CLEV's picture

I go to the University of Buffalo and even though he was playing against lesser competition you could tell that he was a talented back if he could stay healthy. But watching the game this weekend he had a different speed then B-jax to the line of scrimmage. He accelerated to it and was always moving forward when he was getting hit. B-jax on the other hand looks tentative to hit the whole. I love B-jax in the 3 down role just not set on him as our primary ball carrier. Nance also showed something against minnesota with 2 or 3 really nice carries.

Stevelknievel's picture

I own a Gado jersey. What!!!

From McGinn's story: Gado in his ’02 debut (1 carry, 8 yards).

'Nuff said. Starks wins.

Packergeek's picture

Great question Aaron. We're all hoping more like Grant of course. The one thing McCarthy alluded to in the press conference was how Starks falls forward for yards. I noticed that too and think this is not insignificant. He's tall and ran powerfully enough to not once be knocked backwards - or even sideways. At the very least, he runs more decisively than Jackson does (when running, though Jackson is curiously plenty decisive when receiving). Bottom line is that it's really nice to feel like we have multiple options back there now - and this could have the effect of forcing some defenses to focus a bit less on defending our pass game.

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