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Eddie Lacy probably could not wait for the regular season to begin. When last season ended, Lacy was publicly called out by his coach for his weight issues. Because of that, Lacy had to answer questions all offseason about his conditioning and whether he’d be ready to carry the load for the Green Bay Packers.
Since the season began, the focus has shifted from Lacy’s playing weight, to his actual on-field play. When Lacy was at his best late in 2014, the Packers had the best offense in football. He was able to provide balance to a high-powered passing attack led by the league’s best quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
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Last season without Jordy Nelson, the Packers needed more from Lacy to help offset the blow of losing their best big-play weapon in the passing game. Instead, Lacy floundered. He was in Mike McCarthy’s doghouse throughout the season. He was even essentially benched for a game for missing his curfew. Put it all together and it adds up to an embarrassing season for a running back that looked like he was on the verge of becoming a star.
This season, Lacy is playing for a new contract — he is set to be a free agent at the end of this season. He came into the year with a lot to prove as to whether the Packers should consider bringing him back on a long-term deal or not.
McCarthy came into the year planning to give him every opportunity to prove that he deserves to stay in Green Bay. McCarthy’s blueprint of the preseason was simple. He wanted his team to be physical and run the ball.
Lacy was given carries in the first preseason game when essentially every other starter was in street clothes. The hope was to get Lacy in game shape for when the real games began.
It looks like that plan has worked out so far. Lacy does not have the gaudy rushing totals through the team’s first three games. He is not challenging for the league lead in rushing yards. In fact, he has yet to even put the ball in the end zone.
Despite all of those facts, Lacy is off to a good start.
Currently, the biggest reason that Lacy does not have more yards rushing is because of a lack of opportunity. He received just 26 carries through the first two games and averaged more than four yards-per-carry in those games.
Through those first two games, he continued to inexplicably cede reps to James Starks. Starks is not off to a good start this season and it’s clear that Lacy is the better option at running back. Why Starks got significant reps in the team’s first two games remains anyone’s guess.
Even though the team split their first two games, questions remained about why the offense had continued to struggle. In the team’s third game against the Detroit Lions, it came to life. Rodgers was sharp and Nelson was making big plays down the field. That led to four passing touchdowns in the first half.
Lacy was also a productive player throughout the course of the game. He punished Lions’ defenders in the second half. While the game ended up closer than it should have been, the Packers were able to run out the clock and preserve a victory going into their bye week.
In the process, Lacy was able to rush for 100 yards for the first time since last December, when he rushed for 124 against the Dallas Cowboys. While early, that has to be an encouraging sign for a team that ultimately wants to be more balanced by the time the season ends.
Lacy has a long way to go in regards to proving whether or not the Packers want to invest in him long term. He is a back with a playing style that is not conducive to a long career. He has also struggled in the past with motivation and weight issues. It is up to him through the rest of the season to prove to the team that he has put those issues behind him.
So far, the hard work he put in during the offseason has paid off.
Jacob Westendorf | todayspigskin.com | October 5, 2016