On Monday night the Green Bay Packers offense awoke from its slumber and dropped 27 points on a pretty decent Philadelphia Eagles defense. While Aaron Rodgers had his best game of the season and receivers like Davante Adams are starting to carve up opposing secondaries, the Packers offense is still decidedly one-sided. As good as Rodgers is, if the Packers want to continue their playoff push through December, they’re going to have to find some kind of ground attack.
The Packers just haven’t been the same since the dual-injuries of Eddie Lacy and James Starks. In the last three weeks, the Packers have averaged just 76.6 rushing yards per game. Aaron Rodgers has accounted for nearly 38% of those yards. If you subtract those numbers from Green Bay’s totals, the Packers’ running backs (including Ty Montgomery) are averaging just 47 rushing yards per game. That’s atrocious.
When James Starks returned from his injury three weeks ago in Tennessee, he actually looked fairly good in limited carries. While the Packers got behind big time too early to really lean on Starks, he was able to pick up 33 yards on 7 carries, good enough for 4.7 yards per carry. Since then, however, Starks’ numbers have dropped. On 9 carries in Washington he picked up only 25 yards (2.8 yards per carry). On Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, Starks ran with the ball 17 times but could pick up only 41 yards (2.4 yards per carry).
Maybe Starks isn’t fully healed. Maybe the offensive line has regressed in run blocking with the loss of TJ Lang. Maybe it’s something else entirely. Whatever the cause (or causes) of the Packers’ recent ineptitude in the running game, McCarthy needs to try to shake things up.
When Lacy and Starks first went down, the Packers brought in outside talent, trading a conditional 7th round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs to acquire the services of Knile Davis. However, Davis’ time with the Packers was short. He lasted only two games and accumulated a measly 5 carries.
The Packers weren’t done looking for help, however. When Seattle released former second-round pick Christine Michael, the Packers snatched him off the waiver wire. Many expected that Michael would get an extended look against the Philadelphia Eagles, having had about two weeks to digest the the Packers’ playbook. However, Michael received only one carry to Starks’ 17.
While the Knile Davis experiment ended quickly, the Packers have to give Michael a real chance to affect games. Unlike Davis, who had 1 carry on the year before coming to Green Bay, Michael has 117. Michael led the Seahawks’ rushing attack for the first seven games of the season, racking up a respectable 469 rushing yards and 6 TDs. Starks has suited up for seven games for the Packers this season and, while he hasn’t always been the starter, he’s accumulated only 141 yards and has yet to find the end zone.
Clearly statistics aren’t everything, and it would be naive for the Packers to expect a player who was just cut to come in and fill the hole left by Eddie Lacy. But with that being said, the Packers need to give Michael a chance. Starks should not be phased out of the running game entirely, nor should Ty Montgomery (who I would argue actually deserves more carries). Starks is not executing like a lead, every-down back, however.
While one can absolutely not overlook the fact that they’ve run behind different offensive lines, Michael has over twice as many carries as Starks this year, is picking up 1.5 yards more per carry (4.0 to Starks’ 2.5), and he’s fully healthy and well rested.
Michael has proven that he can run in the NFL this very season. Thompson made a slightly out-of-character move to sign him off waivers. Now it’s time for McCarthy to add him in as a meaningful piece of the puzzle. Maybe he won’t prove successful, but there’s only one way to find out.
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.