This is the second in a series of stories that’s examining the Packers’ roster, position by position, leading up to the 2015 draft. The series continues with the running backs.
GREEN BAY – The top of the Packers’ depth chart at running back likely will look the same as it has the past two seasons.
Provided health allows, Eddie Lacy and James Starks will remain Green Bay’s 1-2 punch in the backfield in 2015, so any additions at the position would probably come via the draft’s mid-to-late rounds or undrafted free agency.
A second-round pick in 2013, Lacy has put together back-to-back 1,100-yard rushing seasons, but it’s the clear consensus of the coaching staff that his second year was his best.
Lacy became a three-down back last year, taking on more responsibility in pass protection and upping his receiving production, from 257 yards to 427 and from zero receiving TDs to four. He also added a half yard to his per-carry rushing average, improving from 4.1 to 4.6.
Starks was again the complementary piece, though to call him a change of pace would be a misnomer. Starks is a power back who brings fresh legs into a game when Lacy takes a breather, and he has used them to rush for more than 800 yards over the last two seasons.
Last year’s No. 3 back, DuJuan Harris, is now with the Vikings, but the Packers already have a potential replacement in Rajion Neal (pictured).
An undrafted rookie last season out of Tennessee, Neal was making an early impression in training camp. He rushed five times for 39 yards and a TD in the preseason opener, but a knee injury ruined his chance at a roster spot, and he landed on injured reserve.
Upon recovering, Neal was re-signed to the practice squad during the midseason bye week and then to a futures’ contract at the end of the season.
Neal will get another shot at a roster spot in 2015, but he’ll have competition. Given that in recent years the Packers have chosen running backs in the top half of the draft only when the need at the position was glaring, Neal likely will battle for the No. 3 job with a third-day pick or fellow undrafted hopeful (or two).
The Packers also are currently in need of a fullback, though veteran John Kuhn remains a possibility to re-sign. (Update: Kuhn re-signed with the Packers on Monday, April 13.) A waiver claim at the end of training camp in 2007, Kuhn has been on the Packers’ roster longer than all but three players – quarterback Aaron Rodgers, defensive back Jarrett Bush (also unsigned) and kicker Mason Crosby.
Fullbacks are becoming a dying breed in the NFL, but Green Bay has drafted two fullbacks in the Ted Thompson era (Korey Hall in 2007, Quinn Johnson in 2009), so the idea isn’t out of the question if the right player is available in the right round.