Cory's Corner: James Starks showcases the Packers' depth

Being a backup in sports is awkward. You don’t get the same reps that the No. 1 units get, but you are expected to be ready at a moment’s notice.

That’s what happened for James Starks on Sunday night when Eddie Lacy left with an ankle injury after only three carries.

Now there was good reason to think that after Lacy sprained his ankle that the Packers’ running attack would struggle to gain its footing. The last time Starks had 20 carries in a game was Week 2 of 2013.

But he passed that test and he rose to the challenge vs. a ticked off Seahawks defense. He ran through a proud defense to the tune of 20 carries for 95 yards. He actually resembled himself when he was the Packers’ workhorse in 2010 en route to a Super Bowl title.

He even caught four passes for good measure. Starks isn’t the best running back on the team — not even close. But he’s probably one of the best backups in a sport that sees plenty of its backs nicked up.

There is already word that Lacy will be ready to go on Monday against another stout Kansas City defense. But, now we all know what Starks has in the tank. At 29 he’s still able to run over and around defenders.

And with Jordy Nelson out and now Davante Adams hurt, a running game is even more vital.

With Aaron Rodgers, a ground attack will never get the publicity it deserves. The offensive line is arguably one of the best in the league, Lacy runs mean and actually looks for someone to hit and Starks has improved his vision and can still attack the line motoring downhill.

It’s only Week 2 and the Packers have already sidestepped plenty of adversity. Lots of other teams would’ve punched out by now. But the Packers keep chugging along.

That’s not only a credit to Rodgers and the rest of the leaders on the team, but most of all it’s a credit to general manager Ted Thompson. This team is so deep that it’s easy to take it for granted. There are guys that would fit well on a lot of other clubs — James Jones comes to mind.

And it’s that depth that will keep this team as a Super Bowl title contender all season. Sure, it helps to have the Rodgers’, Clay Matthews’ and Josh Sitton’s of the world. But championships are won with guys named Starks, Ty Montgomery and Jayrone Elliott.  

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (20)

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Since '61's picture

September 22, 2015 at 07:11 am

Cory - completely agree with the article. As long as the Packers can keep A. Rodgers and the OL healthy, especially now while Bulaga is recovering we'll be fine. Almost anyone can run behind that OL. Plus, if we continue to get solid defensive play as we did against Seattle we can beat anyone. Hopefully no more serious injuries. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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croatpackfan's picture

September 22, 2015 at 07:38 am

Cory, again right to the point. Football is team sport, so team win or lose. Of course you have to have some excellent players, but "next man up" brings trophies... James, Ty, Jayrone, Andy, Mike Pennel, Damarius, Richardson, all those players who comes into the game to rest the starters and to produce for team... And that is why Packers are so great!

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John Galt III's picture

September 22, 2015 at 07:42 am

Montgomery is a 220 lb Randall Cobb. Many teams do not even have one top notch slot receiver and we have two. They can line up in many places and make plays. Both those guys are TT draft gems along with the now brilliant re-signing of James Jones.

Funny about TT. He was an NFL LB but his offensive picks are terrific: RB's, QB's, OL and Receivers.

There were many here who wanted to get rid of Starks in the final cut. That would have been gigantic mistake. He makes one cut and he's gone. He is fun to watch.

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4thand1's picture

September 22, 2015 at 08:29 pm

By the end of the season, Monty will be in the running for offensive rookie of the year. He's just gettin started.

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Ibleedgreenmore's picture

September 22, 2015 at 08:22 am

Its great to have Starks, soon TT is going to be forced to make big decisions again. Do we keep Starks and Jones next year, My the pressure TT must be under but when we will the SB this year it will not be so tough.

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erikgj's picture

September 22, 2015 at 08:58 am

Agree completely that our depth will help us get to SB50. Just as backups have always been part of packer runs to the big game.

Stark is a defense killer. Loved his running.

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porupack's picture

September 22, 2015 at 09:55 am

Cory, fully agree with you on the ample depth. I'm not sure if Starks is quite a backup however, as he knows going into any game that he will certainly get a number of reps, so he's mentally prepared at gametime I should think. But sure, he doesn't expect to carry the full load.

But another thought I was just wondering; seems TT and MM are stocking the team with more hybrid players on defense. These might not be the top 10-20 at the position, but might be the top versatile players at 2 positions. If its true the trend in the NFL toward Read-option-QBs, audible play adjustments, and no-huddle offense, it seems that the defense of the future has to be built for players shifting to at least 2 position specialties since there is less and less chance for substitutions. Is MM leading/expanding this revolution, by converting players or drafting multi-positional players? So maybe backups are not in the true sense as they once were, but rather having 13-15 'starters' on defense depending on the opponent. If this is true, then in a sense you actually multiply your depth when a talent like Damarius Randall could shift to safety or corner, and right there you have a virtual 54 man squad. And you might not have the best 11 specialists on the field, but the best 11 that can negate schematic mismatches by opposing QB. Wondering if this thought holds water in the DB group, LB group and D-line Group and appreciate thoughts by fan-experts.

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Amanofthenorth's picture

September 22, 2015 at 11:28 am

I'm not the one to answer rhis question, but I like how you think and feel.
The game is certainly changing and it seems like Packers do too. Well played masterminds.

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Since '61's picture

September 22, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Porupack - You may or not remember my post when the NFL draft took place. At that time as part of the reaction to TTs drafting Randall and Rollins with the first 2 picks I posted that TT is picking players who can handle multiple assignments on any given play. Micah Hyde is another example of such a player. The reason I gave at the time was that TT has recognized the rapidly growing trend towards up tempo offenses in the NFL. Therefore he is looking for players who can remain on the field when they are facing an up tempo offense and the Packers defense is unable to make the substitutions they would normally make. I'm sure that it is true for the DBs and LBs groups. Not so sure about the DLs yet. But I agree with you that this is a direction that TT is trying to move towards. Thanks, Since '61

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croatpackfan's picture

September 22, 2015 at 03:57 pm

Porupack is surely on something I also consider as real possibility. Do you remember few years ago when Mike McCarthy proclaim that Packers wants to be little lighter on the DL, not less strong, just less weight? Experiment with that light 4 linemen DL? Abandoned after 3 minutes in the game? Somehow I think that is the direction where football is going. More strength from pure muscles, not the strength from weight. B. J. Raji, Mike Daniels, Mike Pennel, Julius Peppers, Clay Mattheus are the players Packers will search in the future and for the future. B. J. Raji who can chase Russell Wilson, or Mike Pennel who is not lot slower than Lynch. Future defensive men. They can play any position on the front part of D line or at LB (OLB and ILB). I'm with porupack and you on this matter. I think Packers are build for the future...

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4thand1's picture

September 22, 2015 at 08:26 pm

If that's the case, you'll see big offensive lines resort back to power football. Look what Dallas did last year and the Packers can do.

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porupack's picture

September 23, 2015 at 12:40 am

I vaguely recall such comment from the AllGBP site during the draft, and so credit is due for astute observation. Let's revisit if this trend develops over the next draft or two as well as trends in offensive pace and play. Now if TT could only draft a Ray Lewis (likable version) ILB.

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Duke Divine's picture

September 22, 2015 at 10:19 am

Hiyo! Tinkering Ted Scheming again! Deep with talent.! I love this team! This next game will be on the LB and overall front 7. Keep everything in front of them on defense and they win. Smith hasn't thrown a ball more than 20 yards in the air since his days with Urban at Utah. Block Houston on the edge while using a short passing game to keep rushers in check and Rodgers will navigate them to 3-0! Go Pack!

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toolkien's picture

September 22, 2015 at 11:35 am

I certainly remember the days (early 80's) when the Packers would enter the season with 4-5 very good to great players and a bunch of scrubs, and we'd watch 1,2, or 3 of those guys inevitably get hurt and the Pack would go 8-8. The one season where they were reasonably healthy was shortened by a strike, so their playoff caliber nature was asterisked (that is, I think the Packers would have made the playoffs in 1982 even if it hand't been shortened). It's a long way since then, and it's nice to have top guys go down for the year and still be in the hunt to go deep in the playoffs.

Of course, keeping Rodgers vertical is the key.

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4thand1's picture

September 22, 2015 at 08:16 pm

Dickey, Lofton, Jefferson, Kaufman, Bennett, McCarren great offense no defense. I was at the Monday night game when they beat Washington 48-47.

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The TKstinator's picture

September 22, 2015 at 08:34 pm

Kaufman? Bennett?

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Nick Perry's picture

September 23, 2015 at 05:30 am

LOL...I still think that was one of the best games EVER! That was the season J. Jefferson, Lofton, and Kaufman went to the Pro Bowl.

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PaulRosik's picture

September 23, 2015 at 09:59 am

A memorable game. It was supposed to be dead hours in the dorm for mid term tests but of course being in Wisconsin everyone was watching the game. After Moseley missed the field goal my roommate ran up and down the wing yelling "How 'bout them f$%^king Packers!" No one stopped him or told him to quiet down.

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Grandfathered's picture

September 23, 2015 at 12:37 am

I wonder if Coach will follow the Starks 2014 routine of limited practices at least one day a week.

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Turophile's picture

September 24, 2015 at 04:27 pm

Remember Javon walker leaving Green Bay, Finley's injury, Jennings move to a division rival, the loss of Driver and Jones. Even with Cobb now hurting and Nelson on IR, the receivers are playing decent football. That is depth over time. Same kind of thing at DB - there is quality depth.

When you look at positions where the depth is weaker (like OT, DL or TE) it isn't THAT weak. If the Packers get an edge rusher, OT, TE. DL in the next draft and plug any holes due to expiring contracts and released players, they will probbly be at least as good next year, as they seem to be this year.

No better compliment than to recognise a team is both built with good talent AND built to last, without resorting to the boom-bust cycle of less well-run teams. Long may they continue.

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