Often in search of three rushers just worthy of keeping on their 53-man roster, the Packers have a handful of running backs to choose from heading into the 2013 season. The competition centers around three veterans with varying degrees of health problems, and three rookies, each with a unique skill set. Due to the talent in other position groups, the number of running backs retained figures to be capped at four. As always, the coaching staff will keep an eye out for players who can also contribute on special teams.
One player that has the ability to contribute as a special teamer is 2012 late-season sensation, DuJuan Harris, who has been sidelined by a knee injury since the beginning of training camp. The Packers’ other injury-prone back, James Starks, has looked sharp in his reps with the No.1 offense thus far. However, given Starks’ poor track record of staying healthy, many are calling for the marketing of Starks in training camp just to trade him before Week 1.
If a running back is to unseat Starks as the Packers’ No.1 back on the roster it’s second-round draft pick Eddie Lacy, who asserted his superiority over fellow draftee Johnathan Franklin in the Family Night intra-squad scrimmage. Lost in the excitement of the running back competition is Alex Green, who has shown very little since being drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft. Undrafted free agent Angelo Pease has impressed in his short time in Green Bay but faces the reality that he is the easiest to stash on the practice squad.
Knowing that Mike McCarthy likes to use receiver Randall Cobb as a change-of-pace option out of the backfield, does it really make sense for the Packers to keep four running backs on the roster? After all, the Packers own the league’s best passer in Aaron Rodgers and could use the additional roster spot for an area of greater need, like offensive or defensive line. Assuming that rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin are locks for the 53-man roster, the question then becomes: which veterans make the team?
The key for McCarthy and the coaching staff will be balancing talent with forecasted availability for each running back. Though he brings a lot to the table as a runner, Starks can’t be counted on to stay healthy for an entire season. Roster spots on the Packers are valuable and the team will think twice about cutting a promising player in favor of proven one who can’t get on the field. The No.44 jerseys in the Packers Pro Shop may be hitting the discount rack this fall.