The Green Bay Packers could be in line for some wholesale changes in their game plan if fullback John Kuhn (hamstring) and Eddie Lacy (concussion) donít play Sunday against Cincinnati.
Kuhn, who's listed as doubtful to play against the Bengals, doesnít quite see it that way.
Yes, it would leave the Packers with only two healthy active running backs, James Starks and rookie Johnathan Franklin, and likely would mean Andrew Quarless and Ryan Taylor needing to pick up some of the slack for Kuhn at fullback.
However, itís also a scenario the Packers have prepared for.
ďWe donít really have to change much in the game plan this week,Ē said Kuhn, who tweaked a hamstring in Sundayís 38-20 win over Washington. ďDrew has been mainly the guy who ó when Iím out of the game or weíre in a sub situation or weíre in two-tight end situations ó heís more or less the lead blocker and he does a good job with that. So I think the game plan this week isnít going to really get too creative. Itís going to be much of the same things weíve run before.Ē
Neither Kuhn or Lacy practiced this week, although Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he hoped Lacy would be in a position to return to practice Friday. Lacy didn't practice Friday.
Lacy has been visible at practice after sustaining the concussion on his first carry against Washington on Sunday when Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather led with his helmet on the tackle (which he reportedly was fined $42,000 for).
Although James Starks already has been named the starter against the Bengals, the Packers will decide Saturday whether Lacy could help ease the load. If not, they could call up rookie Michael Hill from the practice squad.
ďItís not ideal for a rookie to go through the week without any preparation and then play in the game, no question about it. Iím not excited about it,Ē McCarthy said Friday. ďWe want 46 players that we feel give us the best chance to beat the Cincinnati Bengals. When the plan was put together on Monday and Tuesday, Eddie Lacy was part of that plan based on the information given by the medical staff. If thatís not the case Ė itís always a medical decision, first. You have secondary plans, and weíve done that, but the primary plan, Eddie was part of the thinking.Ē
The loss of both Lacy and Kuhn would leave a hole in the Packersí pass protection and third-down units where the two backs have been the primary components of those schemes.
McCarthy has often said he views tight ends and fullbacks as one position when constructing a roster with cross training between the two positions enabling the team some flexibility.
Before the reduction to 53-man rosters earlier this month, 6-foot-2, 236-pound tight end D.J. Williams was primarily used behind Kuhn in a motioning H-back role, but both Quarless and Taylor have experience there as well.
Quarless showed vision and decisiveness blocking from the backfield during his small set of reps against Washington, including when he hit a hole between left tackle David Bakhtiari and Josh Sitton and engaged his linebacker to spring Starks for a 32-yard touchdown.
ďItís something Iíve done and Iíve been doing,Ē Quarless said. ďItís funny because I didnít feel too good about the block. It was a good block, but I really pride myself on being dominant. I want to put people on their butt every play if Iím blocking. Iím not satisfied unless heís on the ground and heís on his back.Ē
Starks hasnít been known for his pass-blocking, but seemed to check out OK against Washington aside from missing his blitz assignment that led to a hit on Rodgers in the second quarter.
Franklin struggled in that capacity during the preseason and has yet to see any offensive snaps in two regular-season games. One of Hillís primary strengths is in pass protection, an attribute he prided himself on at NCAA Division II Missouri Western. It almost enabled him to crack San Diegoís 53-man roster last month.
Until more is known about Lacy's status on Saturday, it's all hands on deck.
ďIíve been doing that since I got here because with practice squad, you never know if theyíll move you or whatever. Something like this could happen any second,Ē said Hill, who signed with the Chargers over the Packers due to opportunity shortly after going undrafted last April.
ďAt the same time, you have to learn the offense anyway. Really, these first couple weeks Iíve been here have been hitting the books a lot after practice and after I leave the facility. Yeah, of course Iím preparing.Ē