Packers ready to tackle challenge of stopping Seahawks RB Eddie Lacy
GREEN BAY - When running back Eddie Lacy returns to Lambeau Field on Sunday, this time as a member of the Seattle Seahawks, he may or may not harbor resentment toward his former employer, the Green Bay Packers, the team that drafted him in the second round out of Alabama.
But if ever there was a moment for Lacy to unleash venom, to uncork the type of pent-up rage so many of us would feel if our own bosses publicly lambasted our physical appearance, the regular-season opener in his old stadium certainly would be the place to do it.
“He’s a hard-nosed runner,” inside linebacker Joe Thomas said. “We know all about him, a wide-bodied guy. It’s going to be tough. He’s going to come in with a purpose, you know, coming back to Lambeau. We’re going to have to low tackle him. We know we can’t tackle him up high.”
The Packers allowed Lacy’s contract to expire in March after an over-examined, underachieving, injury-riddled 2016 season that culminated with Lacy being placed on injured reserve. He underwent surgery to repair his ankle and — after a full calendar year of inquisitions about his figure — opted for a fresh start with the Seahawks. He signed a one-year deal worth $5.5 million ($3 million guaranteed) garnished with bonuses tied to his weight.
Six months later, Lacy will return to Green Bay for the first time. And according to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, he is going to arrive in terrific condition.
“During the time he’s been with us, all of the work has been kind of an ascent,” Carroll said. “He’s been building, recovering first, rehabbing. He did a great job. He was able to do a lot of work throughout the offseason with us. He really hasn’t missed anything. He’s been great about his conditioning work and all that stuff. He’s done a fantastic job, so he’s ready to play.
“He’s looking great. He’s made every step of the way. He’s done exactly what he needed to do and he’s in great shape.”
While the Seahawks’ offensive line remains disheveled — quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked 41 times last season, one shy of the league-high — there is no shortage of running backs looking for holes behind them. Lacy and Thomas Rawls likely will share the majority of carries on first and second down, though an exact distribution of playing time remains unclear. Third down should be reserved for receiving specialist C.J. Prosise, a former wide receiver and tailback at Notre Dame.
“Historically we’ve been through a lot of different situations with guys and we just play the way we think is the best way to do it,” Carroll said. “If one guy takes over, he takes over. I’ve been really happy to have guys rotate and allow us to play to their strengths and go with whomever is hot for a lot of years now. We’re real comfortable with it, so wait and see on game day.”
In terms of game planning for Lacy, coach Mike McCarthy said the Packers will identify the things he did well in Green Bay and re-imagine them from the other direction. Or, to put it another way, they’ll try to answer this question: If Seattle uses Lacy the way we used Lacy, how can we try to stop him?
“Eddie Lacy's been an excellent for us in the past,” McCarthy said. “You just try to stay focused on the things that you think are his strengths and what he brings to that offense (when trying to defend him). That's really where we're focused at.
“We've had time to, on a personal note, communicate in the offseason. But it's about winning and Eddie brings another excellent player to their football team. They obviously have a lot of depth at the running back position. We're just focused on the football parts of it right now.”
Playing time aside, the simple act of tackling Lacy is far less simple than it sounds, especially in an era when practices are largely contact-averse. The reality is that virtually no one on the Packers’ roster ever has tackled Lacy to the ground — at least not intentionally. But Sunday they'll feel the power that made him who he is.
Lacy, who was subjected to a weigh-in Wednesday in Seattle, reportedly has slimmed to 245 pounds to earn another incentive on his contract. It’s a far cry from the 267 pounds he carried during free-agent visits in March and 11 pounds heavier than what the Packers listed him at last season.
But either way, the punishing style remains.
“I mean, I knew that question was coming,” inside linebacker Jake Ryan said. “It’s going to be tough. Eddie is a good back, tough runner, he’s a downhill guy. I think it’s just everyone getting to the ball, everyone low tackling him. Playing against him on the defense here in practice, that’s what you have to do, you gotta gang tackle him.”