Over the next two weeks, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2015 season. Today, we continue our series by examining the running backs and fullbacks.
As we continue with our look at the Green Bay Packers' 2015 roster, we turn the page over to the running backs and fullbacks today. Despite going through benching the team's starter twice, seeing him suffer a significant ankle injury that limited him for much of the season, dealing with fumbling issues, and even cutting one of the players who made the team out of camp, the Packers still got decent production out of their backs this season.
Let's go through the roster one by one as we look back at 2015.
Starting RB: Eddie Lacy
Lacy's struggles this season have been well-documented. With reports now surfacing that Lacy played all season at a weight significantly higher than his listed 235 and that he is committed to losing 30 pounds over the offseason, at least one of the lingering questions about his 2015 season has been answered.
An ankle injury also sapped some of Lacy's production, keeping him limited in a few games. Lacy's overall stats took a tumble in 2015, in large part because his yards-per-carry average dropped from 4.6 to 4.1. Still, that 4.1 matched the number in his rookie year, and it was as much a lack of carries and a larger split with his backup that helped reduce his overall numbers.
Lacy's midseason stretch was quite good, however, sandwiched around his benching in the week 13 game in Detroit. He ripped off 100 rushing yards in three of the four games from weeks 11-14, averaging just under 5 yards per carry in that span.
Also noticeable was Lacy's absence on third downs, as his targets in the passing game were cut almost in half from a year ago.
Backup RB: James Starks
While Lacy's workload dropped considerably, Starks had the biggest one of his career to help make up for it. He set career highs in carries, rushing yards, targets, receptions, and receiving yards, and finished just seven yards short of racking up 1,000 total yards from scrimmage. His yards-per-carry average matched Lacy's 4.1, however, falling well short of the career-high 5.5 that he set in 2013.
Starks also demonstrated ball security issues down the stretch, fumbling a career-high five times after never fumbling more than twice before.
Third-String RBs: Alonzo Harris and John Crockett
Green Bay's third stringers did little in any facet of the game this season, often being inactive on gameday. Harris missing curfew before week 13's game in Detroit led to his release, and though Crockett showed a little bit of spark in that game, he was a non-factor the rest of the way.
Starting FB: John Kuhn
Kuhn's role continued to evolve a bit 2015. He was used mainly as a traditional I-formation blocker (and short-yardage runner), continuing to move away from a third-down pass-protector role that he filled in previous years. He continued to participate on special teams, but Kuhn's play both as a runner and blocker was just okay, despite his selection as a Pro Bowl alternate.
Backup FB: Aaron Ripkowski
The rookie sixth-round pick instantly settled into a role on special teams. While he only saw a handful of snaps on offense, his one big play was on a swing route out of the backfield, on which he delivered a punishing blow to a would-be Panthers tackler. There is every reason to believe that he can take over as the starting fullback this offseason, especially with Kuhn hitting free agency this offseason, and given the low snap count that a fullback has in the offense, he should be able to continue contributing on special teams as well.
Position Grade: C
Weight problems, benchings, ball security issues - it seemed that every possible problem that a running back could experience reared its ugly head with one or more of the Packers' running backs this season. Still, the Packers ranked 12th in the NFL in rushing, and although part of that was due to Aaron Rodgers' scrambling ability, the running backs weren't truly bad, all things considered.
Also contributing to the grade is the fact that at times, screen passes to Lacy and Starks was the offense's best weapon. Starks in particular had a marvelous season catching the ball out of the backfield.