GREEN BAY—Eddie Lacy wants to keep running the way he runs without getting any more concussions. He just hasn’t quite figured out how.
Avoiding blows to the head will be paramount for the rumbling, bruising Lacy beginning on Sunday, after he sustained his second concussion within a calendar year last week in Seattle.
Cleared to return to full contact for Thursday’s practice, Lacy said his latest concussion was “nowhere near as bad as last year’s,” which kept him out a full week plus the bye. After taking this past weekend off, he only missed one practice this time.
“I can only be myself. I was drafted here because of the way I run,” Lacy said. “It’s just trying to alter it, make sure I’m still physical, but keep the concussions out of it somehow. But I’m definitely still going to run the way I run.”
Lacy added he’s ditching the prototype helmet he’s been wearing thus far this season – the one with the hexagon-shaped cutout above the facemask for absorbing contact – and going back to his old helmet for Sunday’s game vs. the Jets.
However he runs and whatever he wears, the Packers need his production on the ground. It became a tough night running the ball last week in Seattle after Lacy gained 21 yards on his first two carries. He had just 13 yards on 10 rushes after that.
James Starks added 37 yards on seven runs, but the two backs’ combined 3.7-yard average (19 carries, 71 yards) wasn’t enough to loosen up Seattle’s defense.
As a result, quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the passing game resorted to more straight drop backs rather than play-action throws, which limited the shots at bigger plays. Rodgers’ longest pass completion of the night was just 23 yards, to Randall Cobb, and Jordy Nelson’s longest gain in 14 targeted throws was just 16 yards.
“If we’re able to work in some of the action passing game, that’s when you can really open up some of those holes downfield,” Rodgers said.
But no offense can sell what isn’t working, and the Packers will have to make it work against a tough Jets front seven highlighted by a pair of top-flight defensive linemen in Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson.
First-round picks in 2011 and ’13, respectively, Wilkerson and Richardson anchor an active defensive front Jets Coach Rex Ryan uses very creatively. Right guard T.J. Lang calls it “one of the most complex defenses you’ll see on film,” the way the Jets disguise whose job is whose, particularly against the pass with rush and coverage combinations.
The best way to pass against them, then, is to do so when they’re focused on the run, which means the run has to get their attention.
“That’ll make the safeties and everybody on that defense kind of take a step forward,” Lang said. “If they respect it, they’re going to try to come up and stop it, and that’s when you can get some big plays over the top with the play-action. I don’t think we established the run well enough in Seattle to really call those plays and be effective with them.”
Rodgers and Cobb came close to connecting on a couple of downfield throws against Seattle, but those were one-on-one fade routes, not the seam throws play-action can open up.
“It’s hard to go 70, 80 yards 10 yards at a time,” Nelson said. “You have to get an explosive. It helps your chances of scoring.”
By quite a bit, in fact.
“Your percentage of scoring goes up like 40 percent,” Cobb said. “That’s an emphasis for us this week, taking some shots, making some big plays. We have playmakers on this team.”
It’s up to Lacy and the running game to give them that chance. ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - SEPT. 11