In 2015, the Packers running game was a huge disappointment.
Following back-to-back 1,100 yard seasons by Eddie Lacy, the Packers offense was supposed to be dynamic, despite the loss of Jordy Nelson. Conventional wisdom was that the Lacy-led running attack could become the driving force of the offense with Aaron Rodgers picking his spots more carefully than in years past. Instead, Lacy showed up to training camp out of shape and finished with a career-low 758 yards.
After an offseason focused on losing weight, Lacy had his first real opportunity to show whether or not he can return to form. In the Packers season opener against the Jaguars, he looked solid, gaining 61 yards on 14 carries and adding a reception for 17 yards.
While his numbers may not have been spectacular, Lacy did showcase some real flashes of explosiveness. With less than a minute left in the third quarter, Lacy took a handoff and went right through a hole, before making a cut and turning a good run into a great one. It was clear on that run that Lacy has regained a lot of speed from slimming down. He got back to his best running style – downhill and one cut. In all, Lacy picked up 28 yards on the carry and was one of two first downs he picked up on the ground. Lacy’s longest run from last season? 29 yards.
Last season, Lacy only had four runs for over 20 yards, so this is certainly a good start. But if we take a closer look at some of his numbers, did Lacy really look any better than last season?
Lacy’s yards per carry (YPC) in 2015 was 4.1. Against the Jaguars, Lacy put together a tidy 4.4 YPC. However, if we take out that 28-yard run he had, that number plummets to 2.53, a disastrous mark. Aside from his best run of the day, the numbers would indicate that Lacy didn’t look too great, as he got almost half his yards from that one run.
In reality, Packer fans shouldn’t be too worried. Looking across at the Jaguars running game, T.J. Yeldon averaged 1.85 YPC, and just could not get anything going, despite getting seven more carries than Lacy.
The flow of the game was dictated by the passing attack for both teams, and 58% of the Packers’ plays were throws.
Another way to look at it is through the lens of James Starks, who gained just 7 yards on 4 carries. This would also indicate that the Jaguars actually have a really good running defense, especially following the addition of free agent Malik Jackson.
As far as running the ball was concerned, of the three players who received handoffs, Lacy was far and away the most productive player. Lacy also played well in terms of pass protection, Rodgers was only sacked once the entire game.
Anytime a team has Aaron Rodgers as its signal caller, the offense will always be a passing attack. What that means for players like Lacy in the running game is to play efficiently, and demonstrate an ability to punish defenses that zero in on preventing passing plays.
While the end zone and a 100-yard game may have eluded him, Lacy did exactly that. He kept the defense honest, ripped off a huge gain, and pass protected very well. Packer fans should be encouraged by the way he played as Lacy was clearly the best runner on the field Sunday, and while next week the Packers face a Vikings defense that only allowed 64 total rushing yards, Lacy’s play could go a long way towards determining the outcome of the team’s first divisional matchup of the season.