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McCarthy Noncommital On Starks' Role

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McCarthy Noncommital On Starks' Role

Following a debut in which James Starks ran for 73 yards in his NFL debut, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy wouldn't commit to naming the rookie running back his starter or the first player on the depth chart at the position.

"There really are no depth charts," said McCarthy on Monday. "Brandon Jackson has done an excellent job and will continue to do so. I think I stated this yesterday after the game, I’d really like to get into more of a rotation now that I know I have three halfbacks."

If actions speak louder than words, the workload shouldered by Starks yesterday was indicative of the role played by what one might classify as a "featured back" or "primary back" by toting the ball a team-high 18 times.

Comparatively, John Kuhn carried the ball six times and Jackson four, only one of which came in the first half of Sunday's win over the San Francisco 49ers.

One thing is for sure, Starks is not going to be campaigning for more carries or a starting position.

"I just was excited for the opportunity," said Starks following yesterday's game. "Hopefully they like me a little more. But that's not going to affect me. I'm just going to continue to be myself and keep working hard, trying to get better. If you work hard, hard work pays off."

Whatever label, or lack thereof, is placed upon Starks, so far he's shown to be selfless in his words and actions. When asked a question specifically about himself, Starks instead chose to speak about the team.

"I think as a team we did a great job," said Starks on what he thought of his debut. "Hats off to the offensive linemen. It takes all of us to do that so my production is from them."

While McCarthy said he'd like to rotate his running backs, he still put Jackson at the top of the list. But it came with a qualifier.

"I would like to have some type of rotation of all three of those backs, but Brandon is still our main guy," said McCarthy. "He’s done it all year. As I’ve stated before, I don’t think it’s in our best interests with as much football as we have in front of us to sit there and run Brandon Jackson 25 times a game."

Given Jackson's ability as a pass protector and production he's had as a receiver out of the backfield, it might make sense that he takes ownership of a third-down back responsibility.

However it shakes out, McCarthy said he had to be cognizant of how he utilizes his running back lest upcoming opponents pick up on any tendencies.

"You have to be careful when you rotate backs like that in the game because I think it was very apparent yesterday when 44 went into the game we were running the ball," said McCarthy. "That’s something we have to obviously plan against as we move forward."

Part of the reason Starks was able to get as much work as he did yesterday was in part because fellow rookie running back Dimitri Nance wasn't part of the team's gameday 45-man active roster.

Nance suffered a concussion in the Week 11 game at Atlanta and missed Wednesday's practice last week. He was cleared and returned to practice Thursday and Friday, but the team chose to make him inactive on Sunday.

From here on out, it's a wait-and-see game regarding James Starks, because McCarthy isn't tipping his hat.

"I don’t really want to get into specifics of how we’re going to use each one," said McCarthy. "That’s really what the games are for and for our opponents to plan against."

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (27) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

pittpackers's picture

Although McCarthy may not say it, I have a premonition Starks is going to be the 'featured' back these last four games. Jackson's indecisiveness and lack of explosiveness may have cost him his starting job. As with everything, only time will tell.

CSS's picture

"Although McCarthy may not see it..."

I'm guessing McCarthy and his staff have a pretty good grasp on what personnel create favorable match-ups over the course of the remaining 4 games. He's being intentionally cryptic for two reasons:

1) Starks needs to earn it, regardless of his potential.

2) You don't give away game plans when you ahve so many options, personnel and formations.

Each of the remaining 4 teams have weak secondaries. Pass pro is critical, as is exploiting weak linebacker coverage. Will be interesting....

Brian Carriveau's picture

Well put.

pittpackers's picture

I understand that starks needs to earn it, but how is stating that starks may be the 'featured back' and show when it comes it game planning?i'm only asking out of curiosity. The only indication that would provide to me is that if brandon jackson starts, strictly focus on the pass, don't give the run a second thought (obviously i'm exaggerating here). However, I must confess, I am not a defensive coordinator and for good reason.

pittpackers's picture

please excuse my spelling error. What I intended to say is "how is stating that Starks may be the featured back a show (as in to show ones cards) when it comes to game planning?

Brian Carriveau's picture

It would make defensive game planning easier when looking for tendencies in things like personnel packages and formations when Starks is in the game compared to when Jackson is in the game. And that's just one example.

pittpackers's picture

won't they do that any way when they see Jackson or Starks?

Norman's picture

Brian, did you mean to say "One thing is for sure, Starks is NOT going to be campaigning for more carries or a starting position"? The next two paragraphs seem to support that conclusion.

Brian Carriveau's picture

That what it says, now ;).

gratif's picture

while we're being picky:

a tip of the hat and a tip of the hand are different phrases.

BrianD's picture

My favorite play of the game came in the 4th quarter yesterday. Our offense had been running the ball down the field against the 49ers, picking up positive gains (even if they were just 2 yards) on every run. Starks ran twice in a row, bringing up 3rd and short. Instead of running for a third time in a row, Rodgers tossed the ball out to Jones on the right sideline for a first down.

Props to McCarthy for finally mixing running and passing in the fourth quarter, keeping the defense off balance and opening up the short passing game. If we had seen this effectiveness from the run game earlier in the year during the 4th quarter when we were trying to run out the clock, our opponents wouldn't have had the chance to run down the field and kick field goals awarding the Packers last second losses or forcing overtime.

Cole's picture

Sounds like Starks is humble. That's good to see. The kid is going to be a beast if he can stay healthy (knock on wood).

Ruppert's picture

It seems fairly obvious to me that our run game (and offense in general) will be in better shape if Brandon Jackson can focus on the "3rd down back" role, and if Starks or Nance can take over the role previously held by Ryan Grant.

Of course, this feature back has to produce. Nance hasn't been able to get on the field for whatever reason, so after watching yesterday it sure seems like Starks is ahead of him. If Starks can keep producing, he'll keep that job. And McCarthy really doesn't have to say it.

Jim's picture


pittpackers's picture

i agree.

Nononsense's picture

Anyone still wondering why Starks was activated off the pup list?

The one thing we didn't get to see in Starks' debut was how good of a pass catcher he is. That trait when revealed to opponents will help blur the tendencies that were so apparent when Grant was the main RB.

If the guy can pass protect then TT may have found a true complete RB in the 6th round of the draft.

Welcome to the NFL young man... may the force be with you.

Ruppert's picture

I think Starks might have kinda missed the hole on his first attempt and ran into Quinn Johnson. It's hard to see from the TV camera angle, but I think he might have been able to get a big gain if he hits the hole.

Jmac34's picture

I think Starks said that he purposely went into the line on his first carry just to get hit again, but maybe I read a quote wrong or something.

zub-a-dub's picture

Ball security is the question with Starks with his unique situation, Packers are still on the outside looking in as far as playoffs are concerned and don't have the ability to over come rookie turnovers IMO.

Starks is raw, a potential turnover looms as he gets his feet wet in the NFL. Jackson and Kuhn do not turn over the ball.

IMO MM should keep his reps down when the game is in question to 8 to 10 reps, and give him as many carries as he can when the game is in hand.

Black Hawk's picture

I read that Starks said on his first carry that he just ran into the hole with the ball well protected because he wanted to first get hit to knock the rust off.

If this guys turns out to be any thing close to what we think he can be, TT may have again found a steal and Starks had to have been a factor why he didn't trade for Lynch.


jeremy's picture

Sports history is littered with players who were ruined by overzealous coaches and GM's. I'm glad MM and TT are taking one step at a time with Starks and not pushing him into a situation he may not be ready for.

WoodyG's picture

Actually Starks is not really as young as most might think ....... He's 24 now & turns 25 in February ......

3 years at Buffalo .......
Carried the ball 698 times for 3140 yards ..... Caught 127 passes for 898 yards .... Scored 37 TDs (34 rushing + 3 on pass receptions)..... Fumbled 19 times with 12 resulting in turnovers .....

IMO, MM will go with whoever fits the specific gameplan the best ...... Could change from quarter to quarter ...... If AR continues to play "lights out" ...... With 4 to go, anyone at RB may be enough.

WoodyG's picture

"From here on out, it's a wait-and-see game regarding James Starks, because McCarthy isn't "tipping his hat."

BC .... Why would he tip his hat? ..... I'm sure MM has at least a few manners but I've never seen him 'tip his hat (cap)' on the sidelines, ever ..... Can you clarify your statement? ..... Am I missing something here ?

Doug in Sandpoint's picture

Agree Totally WoodyG. He could keep it under his hat, but probably would not tip it. And PittPack asked why MM thinks he would be showing his cards by making statements about Starks. I personally have never seen MM or any of the coaches with decks of cards or even just a hand of cards. I guess MM does have that big one he covers his mouth with, but...

Maybe he'll just play it close to the vest and keep it under wraps (although I've not seen him in a vest or with wraps). Whichever he does I take my hat off to him.

ONeill's picture


KurtMc's picture

I sure hope Starks has something. Watching New England, B. Jax will get killed as a "feature" RB.

Mcfatty will need a legit play action to keep NE at bay.

thepretzelhead's picture

In junior high I called people names too.

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