I really love this question as the focus around any James Starks discussion. It captures a few very important elements that need to be independently looked at and understood before a realistic big picture can be understood about him. Starks has been an interesting figure on the Packers roster the last couple years. It's a question that captures Starks' development as a player (is he ready to be the main running back for the Packers?). It's a question that captures his current standing on the depth chart (is he still the starter?). It's a question that captures his current health and injury status, which may be the most important as we carry on the discussion surrounding Starks. The question may also express doubt as to Stark's' ability to stay on the roster.
The most important of these sub-questions to consider is Starks' health. This is not a new story as many of you know. He missed his senior year of college ball with a shoulder injury. He landed on the PUP in his first training camp with a hamstring injury. He battled an ankle injury last year. Now he has a turf toe. Worse is that his turf toe may not be getting better. Turf toe injuries are known to linger for a longer time then you might think, and it may be an injury that limits Starks all season long. If this is an injury that will dramatically limit Starks, and the RB corp could be reasonably be covered by Alex Green and Cedric Benson (with some help from Brandon Saine) then the status of James Starks may be that he is destined for injured reserve. This would keep Starks in house, give him time to heal fully, and then come back next year and show the Packers just why many have been high on him for a long time.
Let's move past the injury status though, and move on to Starks' place on the depth chart. Assume for a moment that Starks is healthy right now, or at least for week 1 of the preseason. Who would you rather be the starter...Starks or Benson? Starks has more big play ability than Benson, but Benson is a more reliable player. Benson will hit the hole faster than Starks and doesn't have the amount of injuries that Starks does despite having a much longer career. A good argument could be made for either one being the day one starter, but the fact remains that with Benson in camp Starks' starting job is not as unquestioned as it was a few months ago. Mix that with some uneven performances in camp and during his lone preseason game and it could be interesting to see where Starks ends up when the games matter.
Of course he may not be on the roster at all. The signing of Benson was in response to the amount of injuries the Packers have seen at RB so far. If there is one thing that Starks is known for it's injuries. It may not be an unreasonable thought that the Packers elected to go with Saine over Starks if only because Saine may be seen as more reliable/available on a week in and week out basis. Mix in the fact that Saine seems to be healthy again and Starks is still struggling with his injury and that could be the final straw for Thompson and McCarthy.
All in all Starks will be one to watch as the final cuts come. Unfortunately for him it may not be because of anything he has done on the field, but rather because of the injuries that have kept him off of it. What makes him truly interesting though is that he could reasonably still be the starter week one against the 49ers, he coudl be cut or placed on IR Friday, or anywhere in between. It'll be interesting to see how it all unfolds.
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