The only elite Packers running attack that I am old enough to remember are the early 2000’s teams. I remember the offensive line left to right because they were phenomenal. Chad Clifton, Mike Wahle, Mike Flanagan, Marco Rivera and Mark Tauscher. They of course blocked for Ahman Green who from 2001-2003 rushed for 1,387, 1,240, and an astonishing 1,883 yards respectively. The Packers were an elite team offensively and a very fun team to watch and follow. That elite offense, however was missing key weapons for QB Brett Favre. The 2014 and beyond Packers, because of the 2013 NFL draft have the chance to have both.
Packers fans are able to argue whether Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers is the better quarterback until the cheese producing cows come home. What I believe is not arguable, however, is that Favre always had superior running games behind him and Rodgers has always had better pass catching options. Sure, Brett started with Sterling Sharpe and he had Mark Chmura and Keith Jackson. Andre Rison and Javon Walker were troubled but talented and Favre was able to make very effective receivers out of Robert Brooks and Antonio Freeman. Rodgers has had to make do with the tail end of Ryan Grant’s career, Brandon Jackson, James Starks’ fragility and 2012’s reliance on Alex Green and Cedric Benson. On the bright side, Favre got to hand off to Edgar Bennett, followed by Dorsey Levens, followed by Ahman Green and evenutally followed by the “prime” of Ryan Grant. Rodgers has been able to throw to Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jermichael Finley, and Greg Jennings. Most would say the two QBs shared Donald Driver (and honestly to some extent Jennings).
Neither QB has ever had both, and that, at least for a 3 year window, is what Rodgers might be able to have now. Eddie Lacy is on his rookie deal. So is Jonathan Franklin. Lacy, Franklin, and DuJuan Harris (James Starks if he re-signs) will represent in 2014 the most talented backfield I can remember in my 20-ish year’s of Cheeseheaddom. The real key, though as to why Green Bay could be in a position to have both is (as usual) financial. Eddie Lacy’s cap hit for next year is $771,003. DuJuan Harris checks in at $645,000 and Jonathan Franklin at $596,367. For the next 3 years the Packers will have 3 talented tailbacks in their stable for a third of the money Minnesota will pay Adrian Peterson to star in his upcoming show “Washed Up” premiering sometime soon during this asinine contract Sundays at 1/12 noon central on Fox.
That low number will allow Green Bay to retain Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson and continue to build an offense that with the possible development of the offensive line could become unstoppable. This development could very well be coming. In 2014, The Packers should be in a position where David Bakhtiari and Derek Sherrod fight for the right to start across from Bryan Bulaga and the loser of that battle moves to the teams 3rd and “swing” tackle. Don Barclay moves back into the utility role that he is perfect for and all of a sudden the Packers O-line doesn’t look so bad.
The key to this whole thing, as it has always been is how awesome Eddie Lacy is. DuJuan Harris flashed a lot of potential and both the coaching staff and I believe that he is still a part of the team’s future at running back. I am the world’s biggest Jonathan Franklin supporter and I think he still has a chance to be special. But neither of them are Eddie Lacy. Lacy is the best back out of the 2013 draft class and will be named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. His surprising speed coupled with his obvious ability to create missed and broken tackles make him a different kind of back than early 2000’s Ahman Green, but a truly elite one nonetheless. With AD’s aforementioned breaking down, and the slow walks of Ray Rice and Arian Foster towards the light, it would appear that Eddie Lacy is prepared to join LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles as the league’s faces at the tailback position.
Just think about how easy that is going to be for him to do once Aaron Rodgers and all of his weapons are back causing 6 and 7 man boxes. Think about how much easier it’s going to be for him to do with an improved situation on the offensive line. Think about how easy it’s going to be for him to do when he’s being spelled by backs as different and as talented as Jonathan Franklin and DuJuan Harris. Think about how easy it’s going to be for him to do now that he’s learned the speed of the NFL game. Eddie Lacy (and Eddie Lacy’s cheap contract) just might be the reason that this group (like Favre’s) gets to go to more than one Super Bowl.