Cory's Corner: Starting James Starks doesn't matter

Mike McCarthy made his first big move of the year.

With the Packers’ season sliding off the tracks for two weeks, James Starks has been inserted as the starting running back for Sunday’s game with the toothless Lions.

But is this a ploy of deception by the Packers’ newly minted CEO?

It’s pretty easy to make a change when you take on a team that’s not only circling the drain, but has a 90-year-old in charge to fire its president and general manager.

How much fight will the Lions have now that they know that their coach Jim Caldwell is just waiting to get his pink slip? This team is easily one of the most dysfunctional teams in all of pro sports, so McCarthy is hedging his bets by starting a 29-year-old journeyman.

But does it really matter? McCarthy said that the team would continue its 1-2 running back punch. So Eddie Lacy could still out-carry Starks based on the situation. And if Lacy rolls up 80 yards on 12 carries, does that make him the starter the following week? Again, does it even matter?

This move by McCarthy is a motivational tactic disguised as coaching acumen. Let’s face it, Lacy has been a tremendous disappointment this year. In his first two years in the league, Lacy rushed for less than 50 yards in a game nine times. This year, he has totaled less than 50 in six of eight games. He has been slow, timid and unsure when he reaches the line of scrimmage.

Whether that’s from an ankle injury that occurred back in Week 2, swelling of weight or a combination of both is a real possibility.

Right now, the person that Lacy reminds me of is Jadeveon Clowney. The talented defensive end was a menace at the University of South Carolina. The hit he applied to Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. However, Steve Spurrier, Clowney’s own coach, had a hard time expressing Clowney’s work ethic, saying at one point it was just “OK.” And now, you rarely hear anything about his pro career. 

Lacy is the same way. He’s good at football and he knows he is talented. But does he love it? When you strip away all the perks of pro football, is Lacy still playing? In the preseason, Lacy was asked what he did in the offseason and a red light should’ve came on when he answered that he ate cereal.

You can easily get by in high school with superior talent. You can still get by at a major college with superior talent. However, superior talent isn’t going to be enough when it comes to the NFL. Everyone else on the field has superior talent, so to be better than the guy next to you, you’re going to have to do something else.

Whether that’s holing up in the video room and studying thousands of frames trying to get the smallest defensive tell just to get some daylight, or becoming a workout warrior and turning your body into a chiseled rock.

But McCarthy is sending a message to Lacy and the rest of the team. It doesn’t matter if you’re a second round pick, I don’t have a problem giving your job away.

If Lacy were actually going to remain on the bench, more players would raise their eyebrows and take notice.

But this move is all fluff and no substance. 

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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 (35)

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Nick Perry's picture

November 14, 2015 at 06:53 am

We knew when Lacy was drafted he said he didn't "LOVE" football so is this a complete surprise? All you need to do is Google "Eddie Lacy, Does he love Football", and article after article come up about it. Many of the articles are just about Eddie not "Watching Football", but some do go into the fact it's not a "Passion" for him. There's some interesting reads when you Google that and might explain a bit why Lacy is performing like he is. Most NFL players would take this as a slap and work harder, drop weight, do whatever they needed to get their starting job back. I don't think Lacy could care less but I hope I'm wrong.

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Razer's picture

November 14, 2015 at 07:20 am

I am looking at an offense that is totally underperforming for at least a month. To a man the QB, OLine, TE and WRs have played poorly. Should we be surprised that a power back like Lacy is not busting through the hole. We saw the same with Marshawn Lynch behind his awful OLine.

Teams don't seemed very concerned with the Packers and their high-powered offense - they are just beating the guy in front of them and forcing another 3 and out. I am just not creative enough to jump to the conclusion that Lacy doesn't like his job based on a malfunctioning offense.

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dschwalm's picture

November 15, 2015 at 10:39 am

The Packers are soft. It's as simple as that. They mirror Capers and McCarthy.

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Ibleedgreenmore's picture

November 14, 2015 at 08:24 am

If they do not power over the Lions will they do it with any other team the rest of the year. I was so confident before the season started, It would seem no one wants to win, maybe its just me but I been a fan for 60 yrs and where is the drive at.

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Lphill's picture

November 14, 2015 at 08:32 am

I think moving forward the Packers draft a more athletic back , not a bruiser like Lacy , just a guy who can hit a hole and also good hands for the screen , maybe Lacy does not fit in with this offense.But by no means is Lacy done . Everyone slumps .

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Dan Stodola's picture

November 14, 2015 at 11:27 am

You just described Ahman Green. And one of the many reasons, I've stated numberous times why Ahman is a much better RB than Lacy. Ahman ran w/ tremendous power, as much as Lacy, and possibly more. He had great speed (sub 4.4 40) being one of only 2 NFL players in history w/ 2 90 yd TD runs (Bo Jackson the other). Great hands (4 or 5 seasons w/ 50 rec) and a very good blocker.

Lacy can turn it around, but I'm officially worried. I don't know if he loves football to dedicate himself enough get in the kind of condition it takes to be great. If he does, this season might be a blip in the film of his career. If not he'll continue a downward slide and not get a 2nd contract. And if he does get a 2nd contract will he continue to run the same or will he go in the tank again.

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 14, 2015 at 10:34 pm

Green is my favorite Packer RB that I have watched play. His speed, power were tremendous.
Still can't believe that we all we did was traded Fred Vinson for him. We definitely got the better end of that deal.

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Spud Rapids's picture

November 14, 2015 at 06:28 pm

What holes? The line play has been terrible, Starks has played better yes but I think Lacy's struggles are more from the play of the line than from his individual effort.

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Dan Stodola's picture

November 14, 2015 at 07:57 pm

If Starks can find them, to the tune or 4.3 y/c then there are some holes. Lacy is overweight, that's obvious if you watch. He's also been very in decisive.

The OL isn't completely holding up its end of the bargain, but its more about Lacy.

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Since '61's picture

November 14, 2015 at 09:00 am

Starting James Starks may just be a matter of him being the healthier RB right now. We know Lacy has had an ankle injury and a recent groin injury. Both of those injuries will diminish a back's speed and power. On top of that he appears to be heavier than in the past. He may also be concerned about having another concussion which could end his career. As for the rest of the offense, the Packers have been playing this season without Jordy, a TE and without Lacy the last 3-4 weeks, not to mention Cobb at less than 100%. On top of that the OL has been banged up to say the least. Therefore is it unreasonable that the offensive production has been less than usually expected? How many teams would be 6-2 with their offense missing as many starting players as the Packers? I'm not using injuries as an excuse, but just trying to manage expectations and the reality of 3 Pro Bowl caliber players either missing games entirely or not at 100%. We should take the Lions easily, but who knows, they always show up and play well against the Packers. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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Nick Perry's picture

November 14, 2015 at 09:53 am

I totally agree with what you said but you left out Davante Adams. If Adams could first stay healthy, second play close to the "Preseason MVP", that will make a huge difference in the entire offense moving forward. He's big and strong enough to get off jams at the LOS and I'd really like to see them start taking advanatge of his 42 inch vertical. If Adams and Rodgers can get it going that will help free up Cobb, Jones, and hopefully Montgomery. Monty's another that could really help this offense. The Packers have 2 players in Cobb and Monty where you just have to get them the ball with a little space. Then they'll make happen.

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Since '61's picture

November 14, 2015 at 11:54 am

Nick - I agree. The time has come to put the game in Rodgers hands and get the ball to Cobb, Adams, and Ty if they are all healthy and ready to go. Rodgers is the player who tilts the field in our favor both on offense and defense. When he keeps drives alive he scores points and keeps our defense off the field. He needs to step up and play like the leader and differentiator that he is. Thanks, Since '61

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Dan Stodola's picture

November 14, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Always have and Still do, say the Packer should have drafted Donte Moncrief. Same vertical as Adams (39.5 BTW) 6'2 220, legit 4.4 speed. He would have been a better deep threat than Adams who is a possession WR more than anything. Just better physical tools and would have given the Packers the deep threat they are now lacking.

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Nick Perry's picture

November 14, 2015 at 08:13 pm

I liked Moncrief but loved Robinson from Penn State. I was shocked TT didn't take him and look what he's doing with Blake Bortles as his QB, imagine him with A-Rod. BUT we have Adams and I still have hope he can put it together and be the next great WR for the Packers. (39.5 is correct...Thanks)

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Dan Stodola's picture

November 14, 2015 at 10:37 pm

Liked Moncrief a little more, but definitely had Robinson ahead of Adams. Adams should be a slightly better version of James Jones, but he's no deep threat that's for damn sure.

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dschwalm's picture

November 15, 2015 at 10:45 am

You have attached a lot of conditions to the Packers' success for the remainder of the year. I don't think you are being realistic. They just get beaten up badly by any team over.500. It's a shame. It doesn't matter what personnel they have on the field.
It is tough for an old time football coach like me........ REALLY tough!

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KenEllis's picture

November 14, 2015 at 10:39 am

"How many teams would be 6-2 with their offense missing as many starting players as the Packers?"

Don't know.

I do know there is a team that will be without its starting LT, RT, backup T, starting RG, and starting RB when it takes the field tomorrow.

Will be interesting to see if the Patriots look as bad on offense as the Packers have or if they refuse to use injuries as an excuse.

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Tarynfor12's picture

November 14, 2015 at 11:16 am

The use of injuries as excuse is not in the Patriots protocol...the Packers or at least a vast number of the fans have unrivaled dibs on that as protocol.

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Since '61's picture

November 14, 2015 at 11:50 am

As I mentioned in my post, injuries are not an excuse. The Packers have played poorly and they have been beaten, end of story. As for the Patriots, yes they have their own list of injuries to deal with but they are not going on the road to play 2 undefeated teams in consecutive weeks against the #1 and #2 ranked defenses in the league. They are going to play the Giants who have one of the worst defenses in the league. The Giants will score on the Cheatalots but they will not be able to keep up with Brady because of their porous pass defense.

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Tarynfor12's picture

November 14, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Respectfully,the issue of records,defense ranking(Giants) etc needs to be put to rest as the Packers got to 6-0 by playing a weak schedule,bad defenses or weak offenses though each is of various acceptance/acknowledgement via stat sheet analysis.

Looking at the Patriots from the POV you offer is countered by...the Patriots are more likely to defeat 'any team' while they endeavor weekly to obtain that undefeated goal regardless of schedule and opponents ranking in any aspect.

The use of injury is justified to a small extent and one made larger in Green Bay due to its denial of decent depth at key positions and its failure to recognize its ailments and than procure the better elixir(s).

I have stated that I like the Draft & Develop of the Packers but we are taking to long to develop or simply drafting those who cannot,even with the assumed 3 year grace period.

Luckily,the Division for the most part has allowed a somewhat over bloviation to the level of play and success of the Packers,though success is again dependent on definition or final achievement and individual accomplishment,so unless this team begins a serious climb on the ladder pointing up on the field and via this grace period for players,we will find our Packers on more a level field than should be even with Rodgers at QB. :)

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KenEllis's picture

November 14, 2015 at 01:38 pm

Pats play at Denver in 2 weeks.

We'll get to see if Brady and the O can pass for >77 yards or, as so many Packer fans insist, the Broncos D is just so-otherworldly good that the 85' Bears D is chopped liver by comparison.

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Oppy's picture

November 15, 2015 at 02:36 am

If we're playing the "we can judge which team is better by how they play against a common opponent", I guess we can all agree that the Packers were the best team in football last year, because they beat the Patriots head up, and as we all know, they went on to win the superbowl.

Right?

Or does this game only work when another team plays better than the Packers?

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KenEllis's picture

November 15, 2015 at 09:02 am

That you and at least some other fans sincerely believe "the Packers were the best team in football last year" is undoubtedly true. In fact, I hear that Green & Gold glasses are available through the internet these days and can be delivered via next day deliver.

I cannot, however, concur with you that "we can all agree" the Packers were the best team in 2014.

You see, there are still some of us who believe the best team in the NFL is the one that is awarded the Lombardi Trophy after winning the Super Bowl. Alas, the Pack did not win that trophy or even play in the game whose winner would receive the trophy last year.

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dschwalm's picture

November 15, 2015 at 10:47 am

They won't need any excuses today. They have done it for years - adapting, that is.

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Tarynfor12's picture

November 14, 2015 at 09:38 am

Who would have thought an eraser would be the answer for ugly RB play in Green Bay.

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khoavq's picture

November 14, 2015 at 10:32 am

00

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KenEllis's picture

November 14, 2015 at 10:32 am

"all fluff and no substance?"

Wow, I sense that at least some in the benign Wisconsin press corps are finally willing to tell it like it is.

What's next? Will someone actually ask MM when we can expect his BIG LETTER GUARANTEE (made before the 2014 season) that the defense will be better will come to fruition?

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dschwalm's picture

November 15, 2015 at 10:49 am

McCarthy: "Full of sound and fury, and signifying NOTHING!"

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khoavq's picture

November 14, 2015 at 10:34 am

000

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khoavq's picture

November 14, 2015 at 10:37 am

0000

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khoavq's picture

November 14, 2015 at 10:40 am

0000

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khoavq's picture

November 14, 2015 at 10:40 am

0000

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ray nichkee's picture

November 14, 2015 at 11:15 am

It seems lacy saves his best for late season games but I think injuries all around are slowing the offense. Starks earned his spot by finding the cut back lanes but lacy will be back in time.

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dschwalm's picture

November 15, 2015 at 10:50 am

Dreamer.

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Lphill's picture

November 14, 2015 at 02:30 pm

Let Rodgers call all the plays and speed things up , seems like the offense slowed down a bit from early on, these are simple adjustments .

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