The Packers ended a running back drought when James Starks came on to help the Packers win Super Bowl XLV in 2010. Then they got Eddie Lacy who kicked the running game up a notch (or two) from there. The combination of Lacy and Starks has been a potent one, combining for 1,472 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in 2014 and forcing defenses to pick their poison if they wanted to blanket the Packers’ talented receiver corps and leave the box a little thin…
This year, with the absence of DuJuan Harris the Packers brought in John Crockett and Alonzo Harris and with Rajion Neal returning, the battle for the third running back spot should be fierce. But the beauty of that battle is (though it is possible that someone might push Starks) that the top two spots are filled not just by veterans, but by a superstar (Lacy) and back that could start on some other teams (Starks). The runing game is so important to the Packers offense, not just because it keeps defenses honest, but also for protecting Aaron Rodgers on passing downs, offering a target to throw over pressure, and as a red zone threat.
The fullback situation is in equally good hands with John Kuhn returning as a veteran and fan-favorite. The drafting of Oklahoma’s Aaron Ripkowski signals the forward-thinking nature of the Packers brass. They are preparing for the future but the future is not now. With a year or two to develop, Ripkowski might just develop into Kuhn’s replacement but there is no need to worry just yet. The Packers cross train tight ends and fullbacks and have been known to use the players interchangeably. This makes it possible that if Ripkowski shows himself to be valuable, he might be a second fullback.
So the Packers need their running game to perform if they are going to be special this year. The stage is set for the return of all the starters with some new faces in the mix behind them. Defenses are not going to be able to simply focus on the Packers bevy of receivers because if they do…the Packers stable of running backs will make them pay.