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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