GREEN BAY – Eddie Lacy was asked to do a lot more for the Packers in 2014 than he was as a rookie, and he delivered.
He stayed on the field on third downs as a pass protector and receiving outlet for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He was solid in blitz pickup, and he boosted his pass-catching numbers considerably, from 257 yards and no touchdowns in 2013 to 427 yards and four scores last year.
All the while, he improved his per-carry rushing average a full half yard, from 4.1 to 4.6, without missing a single game and never touching the ball fewer than a dozen times per contest.
It’s a heavy workload that isn’t likely to diminish in the upcoming season, but the third-year running back is fine with his extensive every-down responsibilities.
“I don’t feel I have too much on my plate,” Lacy said last week as the offseason program wrapped up. “I really think it’s the perfect amount. You can see the chemistry between me and the offensive line, and me and the quarterback. We’re just all on the same page and we’re rolling.”
The Packers led the NFL in scoring a year ago, and Lacy repeated that this year’s offense has “a chance to be great.” He’ll certainly be a major factor again, and the coaching staff has emphasized it wants to get clicking from the get-go this year.
That was not the case for Lacy a season ago. He didn’t rush for 50 yards in a game until Week 5, when he gained 105, and he didn’t record his second 100-yard game until Week 12.
Then, just as he did his rookie year, he finished strong. Over the final six regular-season games plus the playoff victory over Dallas, Lacy averaged 99 yards rushing per game and 5.1 yards per carry. He was a dominant, go-to, cold-weather back.
In a perfect world, Lacy could perform like that all season long, but at one of the most punishing positions in the game, that’s probably not realistic. He even acknowledged that a gangbusters start to 2015 for him would probably take away from his finishing kick.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it, too,” he said. “You can’t really call it. It’s just the game.”
That’s why, as much talk as there’s been about a fast start this year (the Packers have begun each of the last three seasons 1-2), Lacy isn’t altering his personal training regimen between now and the start of training camp.
He still must focus on the long haul given what he’ll be putting his body through, getting tackled most of the 300-plus times he’ll be touching the ball.
“You don’t want to beat yourself up too much in these five weeks, because it’s a long season,” he said. “You don’t want to get to Game 10, 11 and you’re pretty much dying because of what you did in these five weeks. Definitely pace yourself, work out, eat right and get yourself in the best shape.”
Don’t get him wrong, Lacy doesn’t want to start 1-2 again any more than any of his teammates, but a faster start can’t fall too heavily on the running back.
If big numbers for Lacy in September come at the expense of late-season and playoff production, it’s not worth it.
“Definitely, because the Super Bowl is at the end,” he said. “That’s what you want to be strong for.”