Lacy: 'I want to push the gas' in Year 3
Eddie Lacy says he doesn't watch football, but that doesn't mean he ignores the film.
So what does the Green Bay Packers running back see when he rewinds the tape from his first two NFL seasons? It's certainly not the 3,001 total yards he amassed on the shoulders of back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
No, Lacy is focused more on the yards that never made it to his game log. The one juke, spin move or broken tackle that could've resulted in an explosive play. The 5-foot-11, 230-pound bulldozer is difficult to take down on first contact. Now, he strives to be more dynamic in the open field.
There are no numerical goals for Year 3. Lacy's only aspiration can be summed up in two words.
"Finishing runs," Lacy said last week at the first open practice of organized team activities. "A lot of times I'll get into the secondary and I'll stop my feet or as my coach likes to say, 'Hit the brakes. Hit the air brakes.' This year, I don't want to do that.
"I want to get to the secondary and if there's a guy there, whoever it may be, instead of me hitting the air brakes, I want to push the gas and make it harder on him and maybe he'll miss a tackle and I'll break a long one, or maybe he makes the tackle. But that's something he's going to have to do for that whole game."
Lacy wasn't bad at breaking tackles last season. His 45 broken tackles forced on 287 touches were among the best in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. His 18 carries of more than 15 yards were second only to Dallas' DeMarco Murray, who had 27.
Still, Lacy wants more.
He wants to increase his explosive plays after registering only one carry for more than 40 yards last season: a 44-yard touchdown against Tampa Bay in Week 16. Lacy isn't the fastest running back in the league but believes his power-running style could make him a force in the open field where he holds a size advantage over almost every defensive back.
As long as he keeps his feet moving.
The Packers' plan for their blossoming young back has worked so far. They cut his touches in the first two months of the season and kept him healthy for all 18 games (including playoffs) outside of a concussion he sustained in the opener against Seattle.
Along with boosting his yards per carry to 4.6 from 4.1, Lacy improved his numbers as a pass-catcher (42 receptions for 427 yards and four touchdowns) and took the necessary steps in pass protection to be relied upon as an every-down back. Both areas were points of emphasis after Sam Gash became running backs coach last year.
"Being a three-down player, that was something we stressed from Day One, and I thought he delivered," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said at the NFL owners meeting in March. "I thought Eddie really hit the target last year. Maybe not run attempts — I thought we were really smart the way we used him, and that's really a credit to James Starks — but his ability to play third down, I thought his pass protection he made a huge jump, and his ability to play out of the backfield."
Lacy finished last season with 1,566 total yards, the sixth-most among running backs.
Starks (85 carries for 333 yards and two touchdowns) absorbed some of the wear and tear in spelling Lacy for the second consecutive season. That allowed Lacy's body to recover a little faster than it did after his rookie season, when he finished the year on a badly strained ankle.
However, there still were plenty of bruises left to heal afterward.
"Definitely, because I didn't have the same amount of touches, so I didn't receive the same beating," Lacy said. "At the same time, it's a very physical sport, so no matter how many touches you get, you're going to get banged up a little bit and it's still going to take a long while to heal and get your body back ready."
Lacy hasn't made any major alterations to that body other than his usual rest, recovery and training regimen. When asked whether he contemplated losing 5 pounds, the former NFL offensive rookie of the year simply said, "I'm cool."
The stage is set for Lacy to continue his upward trajectory. He turns 25 today and is poised to run behind the same starting five offensive linemen after the Packers re-signed right tackle Bryan Bulaga.
Green Bay hasn't had a running back rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons since Ahman Green made it five in a row starting in 2000.
But if statistics aren't the focus, where does Lacy see himself going from here?
"It's a great question," Lacy said with a short laugh. "I don't like to think like that. Like I say every week, I approach every game just trying to make the most of that opportunity. At the end of the season, whatever stats or touchdowns or yards I have, that's what it is. But I don't put a goal or an emphasis on trying to do better than I do last year."
-- firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @WesHod.