GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 20: James Starks #44 of the Green Bay Packers carries the ball as Michael Bennett #71 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defends on November 20,2011 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
If you missed it, Kevin Seifert of the ESPN NFC North Blog made the trek to Green Bay for minicamp, something I was not lucky enough to do this year. A few days ago, he posted three observations from practice, and one was about James Starks.
The Packers have committed to James Starks as their primary running back. Ryan Grant's locker is now occupied, indicating his return is not in the team's plans, and Tuesday, Starks took the first-team repetitions while second-year back Alex Green continued his recovery from knee surgery. Starks has a long injury history, but coach Mike McCarthy is clearly prepared to take that risk. McCarthy: "He's a young raw guy that needs to play. If he can stay healthy, I think he'll make a significant jump as a player."
I may be wrong, but reading into that, I sensed a bit of an implication that Starks was a shaky guy to have as a No. 1 running back, especially considering the fact that Alex Green is recovering from an injury. Seifert followed up on this today with another post about Starks, and his point is worth highlighting. It's below the jump. The emphasis here is mine.
... To the extent that the Packers will have a primary running back in 2012, James Starks appears to be the one and only candidate.
The difference? The Packers have the NFL's reigning MVP at quarterback and one of the league's most dynamic passing games. They will run the ball in 2012, but employing a reliable 250-carry ball carrier isn't as high on their priority list as it might be for some teams.
Aaron Rodgers finished 16th in passing attempts last year, and if he played the final game of the year against the Detroit Lions, he still wouldn't have cracked the top seven. The top four QBs in passing attempts -- Matthew Stafford, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Eli Manning -- were all on playoff teams. Two of those quarterbacks played in the Super Bowl.
I expect Starks to be fine, because I don't expect him to get significantly more than his 133 carries in 2011. He'll get more, but he might not even touch 200. Brandon Saine and Alex Green will get some work, but I expect the Packers to have an even larger ratio of passing attempts to rushing attempts this year, and there's nothing wrong with that.