GREEN BAY - Ever since coach Mike McCarthy scolded Eddie Lacy at the end of last season, there has been just one metric applied to the running back’s performance: weight.
But as the Green Bay Packers enter their bye week, with Lacy fresh off a 100-yard performance, the natural reaction is to evaluate once more.
“Something that we always look for, what are you doing on your own?” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said Monday. “As far as breaking tackles, making people miss, it was quite a few illustrations of our backs protecting the football and keeping their legs churning, and then you saw our offensive line just push that pile. Those are the type of runs that you really love to see because it’s about finish, and it’s about making every opportunity count, and that was exciting to see.”
Despite a career year from tailback James Starks, whom general manager Ted Thompson re-signed during the offseason, the Packers once again have committed to Lacy as their premier back. Of the 60 running plays not involving quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Lacy has toted the ball on 43 of them. His usage rate in the running game is 72 percent.
Through three games, Lacy’s contributions have been fairly impressive relative to the rest of the league. He ranks 12th in yards with 215. He ranks fifth in yards per carry among players with at least 20 attempts. He is tied for second in carries over 20 yards with two. He has not fumbled.
And he’s done all that despite ranking 17th in carries per game.
“You’re always happy whenever you get the ball,” Lacy said. “But like always, whatever I’m asked to do, however many carries it is — five, 10, 20, whatever — I just try to maximize each opportunity.
His contributions are less impressive when compared to the first few weeks of last season.
Excluding his three carries for nine yards against Seattle in Week 2, when Lacy left with an injury during the first quarter, his totals for games one, three and four were as follows: 47 carries for 221 yards and one touchdown.
His numbers through the first three games this season are 43 carries for 214 yards and zero touchdowns. Remarkably similar considering the weight at which Lacy played last season.
“Personally, I think I’m off to a pretty good start,” Lacy said Monday. “Our offensive line has given me opportunities and I’m taking advantage of it, but it’s still early in the season, and I’ve just got to keep rolling.”
Whether Lacy keeps it rolling relies in part on McCarthy, the play caller. McCarthy expressed his desire to run the ball more in the days following the loss to the Minnesota Vikings, and on Sunday he achieved that goal in the second half, when Rodgers attempted only six passes.
The other part, though, is on Lacy. A year ago he reported to camp overweight and out of shape. His size appeared to increase as the season went along.
But he changed his approach after McCarthy’s rebuke and dedicated himself to losing weight during the offseason. Now, just like he said, Lacy’s job is to keep the renewed work ethic rolling.
“It gives us confidence,” Lacy said of the performance against the Lions, “and I think the offensive line did a great job, the tight ends and receivers did a great job blocking and opening holes, and I was able to take advantage of what they gave me
“And it just gives us confidence and lets us know that if we have to run the ball, we can definitely do so.”