The Green Bay Packers appear to have agreed with RB James Starks on a 2 year contract agreement last night. The shifty Starks, affectionately known as “Neo”, ran well last season and created a very effective 1-2 punch with star RB Eddie Lacy. Starks’ return creates a deep and talented backfield in Green Bay. The Packers now have 4 running backs that there are reasonably high expectations for. Eddie Lacy is the league’s reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year. James Starks was very effective in his role. Jonathan Franklin was a highly regarded prospect coming out of UCLA a season ago. Coming in to last season Mike McCarthy said he viewed DuJuan Harris as the team’s starter.
I had a discussion on twitter last night, @JDM450, I’m talking about you, that got me thinking. Is this the end of John Kuhn? There are a few factors that come in to play here, but the questions are legitimate. How does the team replace Kuhn if he’s not re-signed? Can the Packers carry 5 backs on the roster? Can any of the backs on the roster play special teams? Does the James Starks signing mean anything about the organization’s feelings about Jonathan Franklin?
The team doesn’t play out of the traditional I formation very often, and at this point, Kuhn’s role as a fullback has been surpassed by his role as the third down back. His role as a fullback can be replaced by a combination of Ryan Taylor and Andrew Quarless. Both tight ends have experience in the offense as lead blockers. There will also be a few roster spots that are different from last year’s configuration. Under no circumstances do I anticipate the Packers keeping 8 defensive linemen again. They only play 2 at a time usually and the configuration last season was to keep enough guys under team control where this team’s line wasn’t an abject disaster. The Packers certainly could keep Kuhn and the 4 tailbacks.
If they choose not to, the key is to replace Kuhn as the 3rd down back. Can Eddie Lacy do it? Maybe. he is a big back and one would certainly think that he could hold his own as a blocker. He’s also a better pass catcher than people give him credit for. Can DuJuan Harris do it? Maybe but he is so very small. Jonathan Franklin is the player that everyone hopes is capable of the role and his skill set fits a 3rd down role in a rich man’s Brandon Jackson type of way. He just needs to figure it out as a blocker. I think that Franklin’s talent, his ability to play specials, and his performance last season against the Bengals have him very safe on the roster.
As for Kuhn, I’m leaning towards him not being on the roster, but his return would not surprise me.