GREEN BAY—Given Eddie Lacy’s punishing running style on the field and laughter-filled personality off it, a quippy nickname is bound to emerge sooner rather than later for the Packers star running back.
The one he’s apparently chosen, however, isn’t likely to stick.
“Eddie has a self-appointed nickname of ‘Moss,’ as in Randy Moss,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “He thinks he’s got incredible hands. His hands actually are very good.”
That they are, and it’s become a frequent sight through the first three days of training camp to see Lacy catching any and all manner of passes out of the backfield – on screens, quick flips to the flat or checkdowns.
The extensive pass-catching work is in line with Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s declaration in the spring that he wants all Packers ball-carriers, and Lacy in particular, to be three-down backs who don’t necessarily need situational substitutes.
Fewer down-by-down substitutions will help facilitate the no-huddle, up-tempo offense the Packers like to run, and getting Lacy the ball in space with a short pass is just another way to maximize on his talents.
“It expands the offense, first and foremost,” Lacy said. “It gives the quarterback another target. Even if it’s not a 10-yard, 20-yard pass down the field, those 4- and 5-yard passes, it moves the chains and wears down the interior defense as well.”
The “Moss” business started last year, when Lacy jokingly would holler out the future Hall of Fame receiver’s name every time he caught a pass in practice. He did catch 35 passes in the regular season – fourth on the team – for 257 yards, a healthy 7.3 average.
Lacy’s hands are indeed pretty reliable, though in the fourth quarter of last January’s playoff game against the 49ers, he flubbed a checkdown from Rodgers when he had all kinds of room to run on the right side.
“Plays like that you definitely want to make,” Lacy said. “Unfortunately, it was a drop for me. You can’t dwell on it. You just have to go on to the next play.”
He had a similar drop on Sunday in practice, one day after making a diving grab for a first down in the no-huddle period. So it’s all still a work in progress, but it’s a good bet the opportunities will keep coming.
Lacy’s 35 receptions last season were the most by a Packers running back under McCarthy since Ahman Green’s 46 in 2006, McCarthy’s first season. Considering Rodgers’ plethora of weapons at receiver, it’s hard to imagine Lacy approaching the franchise high for a running back (Edgar Bennett’s 78 catches in 1994), but it’s easy to see his receiving numbers from last year rising.
“I think Eddie Lacy looks more polished, more comfortable in the offense,” McCarthy said after the first practice on Saturday.
The offense last year was at its most polished in Week 8 at Minnesota, when Lacy racked up 29 rushing attempts and four pass receptions for 112 yards from scrimmage. The Packers possessed the ball for nearly 41 minutes and put up a season-high 44 points.
The next week, of course, is when Rodgers broke his collarbone and missed the ensuing seven games. Combined with Lacy’s concussion on his first carry in Week 2, which forced him to sit out the following game as well, Rodgers and Lacy played a full game together just six times last season heading into the playoffs.
In essence, the duo has yet to be fully unleashed on the league, which would seem to make the possibilities limitless for the Packers offense in 2014.
“We’ve never literally like sat down and talked about it, but I’m pretty sure we can both figure it out,” Lacy said of him and Rodgers. “You put two and two together, and you have the opportunity to be pretty dangerous back there.”