James Starks: 2015 Packers Player Report Card

James Starks

  • Age: 29
  • Ht./Wt: 6'2", 218lbs
  • College: Buffalo
  • NFL Experience: 6 years

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Expectations coming into the season:  Starks was expected to have a complimentary role at best and a "break glass in case of emergency" role at worst if something went drastically wrong with Eddie Lacy. At most. Starks was expected to field his usual average of 70-80 carries. In the event of an injury, the expectation was that Starks would split the carries with another back.

Player’s highlights/low-lights: During the Week 6 game against the San Diego Chargers, Starks entered the game to give a banged up Lacy a breather and then was so effective he stayed in. Totaling 112 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries and adding a 5-yard touchdown catch, Starks was integral to the Packers 27-20 victory and his 65-yard touchdown run was a beautiful play. On the play, Starks moved to take an inside lane but found the hole closed. Instead, he bounced the run outside and headed towards the sideline and away from the defenders around the line of scrimmage. As Starks approached the sideline he kicked in the afterburners and while he isn't often winning any foot races, he was plenty fast to make the end zone in this instance.

There were many low points this season for Starks though, among them getting the start for a benched Lacy against Detroit and being held to 14 yards on nine carries, a fumble against Oakland in Week 15 which had him benched for most of the game. In fact, he fumbled the ball five times (losing three), both career worsts.

Level of Expectations met:  In so far as playing a fill in role, Starks was adequate, though far from spectacular. He is able to gain yards if a hole is there but doesn't have as much luck creating his own yards and is too often stopped when he meets resistance at or behind the line of scrimmage. When filling in for Lacy full time (either due to injury or benching), Starks was inconsistent. He was generally asked to carry a bigger load and didn't share much in those rare instances and that perhaps was too much to ask of him. If nothing else, this season proved that while he is a solid alternative to give the main back a breather, he's not full-time material.

Grade: C

Player’s contributions to team success:  While Starks can fill in on occasion, he's a far more limited back than Eddie Lacy (when Lacy is playing well). His ceiling is much lower than Lacy's and so in general his impact was minimal. There were times, such as Week 6, when he was an important piece of the win, but more often than not Starks had minimal impact.

Grade: C

Player’s contributions in the playoffs:  Starks had a solid game against Washington in the first round of the playoffs, scoring a touchdown and averaging 4.4 yards per carry on his dozen carries, but he was largely a non-factor in the loss to the Arizona Cardinals. 

Grade: C

Intangibles/misc: Starks doesn't come across as anything special from a locker-room or a teammate point of view, and he seems anxious to prove his worth elsewhere. While he has said he might take on any role for another shot at a ring, he also firmly believes he can do more if given the opportunity. There's a good chance he's gone next season, though with a thick free agency class of running backs, the almost-30 year old might find starting gigs scarce.

Grade: C

 

Overall Grade:  C

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Comments (13)

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 11, 2016 at 12:33 pm

The biggest noticeable difference between Lacy and Starks was Starks hit the hole fast, and got up on the defenders so much faster. His speed really provided a nice change of pace to the run game. The biggest thing that hurt Starks was him fumbling the ball away.

I would like to see Starks return, but regardless if he does, I think the Packers have to find a shifty type of RB. A RB that can be a threat coming out of the backfield for passes and one that could create his own yards. Neither Starks or Lacy are great at creating their own yards.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

February 11, 2016 at 06:15 pm

100% agreed. I think McCarthy tried to fill this void with Cobb in the backfield, but honestly they would be better off with a real running back that can stretch the edge. They need to make the other teams edge defenders respect the run. Some of those guys where just teeing off on the pass rush because they knew that the Packers RBs aren't a threat on the outside.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 12, 2016 at 06:26 am

I agree. I think their plan was to use Montgomery back there. He started playing more in the backfield his last 2 games but then he got hurt.

So I can see Montgomery being a really good option there.

Going back to the Vikings game, just thinking of how the Vikings used McKinnon. I would love the Packers to have a RB like that, where they could spread out and have run past a LB. Create more mismatches.

Another one is Ronnie Hillman. Watching him threaten the edges really changes the way defenses have to play them. We could really use a RB like that.

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zoellner25's picture

February 11, 2016 at 12:36 pm

I really like Starks, but I just realized at the top of this story is his age. He's 29 already? Damn. I'd love to see him in GB for one more contract though.

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4thand10's picture

February 11, 2016 at 01:31 pm

I would like to see him back, Yes he had some fumbles , but we would have been screwed this year without him. Unfortunately thats where we are at unless we find someone better, Gotta have a 1-2 punch and even a 3rd scat type back and another on PS just in case the way injuries go in todays NFL,

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Packer_Pete's picture

February 11, 2016 at 03:45 pm

Starks is someone who can be replaced in the draft. Nothing special about him, and he's not that great in pass pro either. So I'd say let him walk or sign him to a minimum contract.

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Since '61's picture

February 11, 2016 at 05:06 pm

Draft Lacy's replacement and chuck Starks. They both leave too many yards on the field and Starks has a problem with fumbles. If Lacy returns to form we have 2 good backs. If not we at least have Lacy's replacement ready post-2016. RB has gone from a position of strength to a ? for this offense. We need an RB with some speed, the ability to catch out of the backfield and break or cause a defender to miss a tackle or two. Thanks, Since '61

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Bearmeat's picture

February 11, 2016 at 07:38 pm

Dear CHTV:

Is it possible that you could include a "Mute Cow" option in your settings?

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Bearmeat's picture

February 11, 2016 at 08:54 pm

No. We don't see things the same way. Not even close. You see the worst possible outcome in every packers related issue. To the point of insanity. I see problems that are fixable.

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Bearmeat's picture

February 11, 2016 at 09:21 pm

Defeated in how badly the team was underachieving in 2015? Yes. Defeated as in stating that the players are bad, the coaching is bad, the personnel staff is bad, and we should therefore change everything?

No. Not even close.

And let's not forget, even in the "worst" year that GB has had since 2008, they went 10-6, made the playoffs for the 7th straight year, made it farther in the playoffs than any other team in their division, and made the final 8 teams of the year. Most teams in the NFL would KILL to have a "down" season like that. There is absolutely NO reason to blow up the personnel or coaching staff on this team. Tweaks? Yes. Blow up? No.

If I had to bet, I'd bet this team will be right back where it should be next year: Winning the division and being in the final handful of teams competing for it all.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 11, 2016 at 08:35 pm

I agree with the tone of the analysis, but too often there seems to be omissions about these players. Starks caught a career high 43 passes on 53 targets (for a good 81.1% catch rate) and for a fine 9.1 yard average. His pass pro has improved over the years, though I think he is a little less than average in that regard.

In turns of running, Starks is a player that can take it to the house on any given play (unlike the questionable suggestion that Lacy could do so). Starks is not a power back. His speed is good but not great. Nice one cut runner. Not sure any back would have averaged much more than 4.1 yards per carry with the regression of Sitton, Linsley, Lang and Bulaga as run blockers, and the plethora of defenders near the line of scrimmage due to the woes of our WRs.

Starks is an complementary back who is about average or a little better. Nothing wrong in re-signing him for the same money on a short 1 or 2 year contract. I would give him a C+.

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lou's picture

February 12, 2016 at 05:08 pm

Lots of good points Thegreatreynoldo. Had it not been for his fumbles this year his grade could be B or better. Not mentioned by the author was the fact that he gained the most yards of his careers and Starks led the NFL with an average of 11.37 yards after the catch per reception, and the next closest player trailed by nearly two yards. In addition he did it at a relatively low salary. Keeping him at a reasonable cost based on Lacy's status and Crockett still being a total unknown quantity, and the fact that he was the featured back by default during the Super Bowl run (no question he can do it) is a must for Thompson. Cobb or Montgomery in the backfield occasionally is a good change up but Stark's is a better option for a majority of the game.

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4thand10's picture

February 13, 2016 at 12:57 pm

I don't want to see Cobb in the backfield or Montgomery for that matter...too valuable as WR's and even KR's if needed. Just find a scat RB somehow. Get a high paid WR injured in the backfield...no thanks...we've been running those WR in the backfield plays a couple years now....its not going to fool anyone next year.

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