GREEN BAY – The Packers may have a new No. 1 running back, but no one is giving up on the new No. 2.
“Eddie’s got a great attitude, he’ll rebound and he’s still Eddie Lacy,” said James Starks after Wednesday’s practice, his first following Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s announcement that he’s now at the top of the depth chart.
“Me and Eddie, it’s still a tandem. We’re family. That’s my little brother. He’s going to continue to work, and I’m going to continue to be there for him.”
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers reiterated on Wednesday that Starks is one of his favorite teammates, and comments like that are part of the reason.
Rodgers also expressed his continued confidence in Lacy, that he’s going to work through this slump he’s in and get back to being the old Eddie.
“He’s a bruising back,” Rodgers said. “You turn on the film of last year’s game against the Lions in Week 17, and he looked incredible. We just have to get him to 100 percent and keep him dialed in, because we’re going to need him.”
Lacy understands the move made by the coaching staff. He said Starks is playing better and deserves it. Lacy’s production and ball security have both lagged over the past month.
Normally the laid-back, happy-go-lucky type, Lacy hasn’t been in his usual chuckling mood of late, and he answered questions in a more serious tone on Wednesday. He said a player can’t let a change in status “play tricks on your mind” or the struggles might just get worse.
He doesn’t have an explanation, though, for why he doesn’t look like the guy who rushed for more than 1,100 yards in each of his first two seasons in the league. With 308 yards through eight games, Lacy is on pace this year for barely more than half his prior outputs.
“I honestly don’t know what it is,” he said. “I’m definitely off to a different start. I’m not playing the way I was the previous two years.
“Maybe things will pick back up for me and things go back to being the way they were and then we’re never having this discussion again.”
That said, Starks is the hot hand right now, coming off a 122-yard performance (39 rushing, 83 receiving) in the loss at Carolina.
"I think he’s just locked in. He’s focused," receiver James Jones said of Starks. "I really haven’t seen 'four-four' locked in like this in a long time, since that playoff run in 2010. I don’t know if he’s out to prove somebody wrong, but he’s playing good football right now."
The Packers’ offensive line would also like to get back in a groove, but its health could be getting in the way.
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee) sat out Wednesday’s practice, while guards T.J. Lang (back) and Josh Sitton (back) were both limited participants. The status of the full group will be better known later in the week.
Center Corey Linsley said the unit’s approach this week is to not dwell on the handful of rough plays from the previous game, but understand what happened and move on.
“We can’t keep looking back at the past,” Linsley said. “I think that might be how maybe we got into this. Last week, it was looking at Denver, and then it was the Chargers. ‘Why didn’t we do this? What are we doing wrong?’
“It’s time to stop all that and just move forward. Forget about that, know what we can do, know what our potential is, and move forward to this game.”
On defense, the secondary remains in flux injury-wise. Cornerbacks Sam Shields (shoulder) and Quinten Rollins (neck) both practiced, but Casey Hayward (concussion) and Damarious Randall (illness) did not.
Shields was listed as limited but said he did more work than he thought he would. That’s a good sign after Shields has missed most of the last two games, exiting in the first quarter at Denver two weeks ago.
“We need everybody, not just me,” Shields said of the boost he might provide upon returning to the lineup. “If I do come back, that’s another help for the team.”
The big plays downfield by opposing offenses have increased in Shields’ absence. While Shields played the entire game vs. San Diego before the bye, when Philip Rivers passed for 503 yards, it took the Chargers QB 43 completions to do so.
That average of 11.7 yards per catch has been dwarfed in the past two weeks by Denver’s Peyton Manning (21 completions, 340 yards, 16.2 avg.) and Carolina’s Cam Newton (15 completions, 297 yards, 19.8 avg.).
From Shields’ perspective, he believes it’s small breakdowns that have led to the big plays, and the defense must avoid the miscommunications that slow down reactions.
“That’s going to happen. It’s football, but it can’t happen a lot,” he said. “We have to be on the same page. If not, you’ve seen what happened. When you go against good quarterbacks, they see things, so we all have to be in the right spot.”
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