The Green Bay Packers are going to rely on the steady performances of running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks for them to contend for a Super Bowl title in 2014.
The Green Bay Packers' running game is alive and well.
The Green Bay Press-Gazette Media's Weston Hodkiewicz spoke with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Aug. 17. Rodgers maintains an efficient ground attack featuring two running backs will help the team contend in 2014:
"Last season, the Green Bay Packers witnessed what a capable running game can do to round out a high-powered offense.
"To properly push the boundaries of the no-huddle, it can't all be on quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the passing game. You need to be able to wear down a defense on the ground, as well.
"That's where the Packers had fallen short in the past and why maintaining the one-two punch of Eddie Lacy and James Starks was seen as a major priority this offseason.
"The Packers have been smart with both players in the first two preseason games -- they've combined for three series -- but what they have seen has to excite the organization.
"The Packers have scored on all three with Lacy and Starks combining for 73 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries
"The Packers have scored on all three with Lacy and Starks combining for 73 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries behind the first-team offensive line.
"Rodgers has been a marquee quarterback in the NFL for four years now, but it wasn't until last year the Packers finally had a better-than-average backfield.
"In jumping from 20th to seventh behind Lacy and Starks, it taught everyone in the organization a valuable lesson.
"'You need two backs,' said Rodgers following Saturday's 21-7 preseason win over (the) St. Louis (Cardinals). 'You need at least two backs and we think we have more than that. Having Eddie and James in there with the way they're running is really going to help us out. It's going to take some pressure off the passing game and give us some one-on-ones outside for Jordy (Nelson) and Jarrett (Boykin). We have to keep those guys healthy and running well.'
"As the centerpiece of the NFL's seventh-best rushing offense, Lacy and Starks forged a rushing offense not seen in Green Bay since Ahman Green rushed for more than 1,800 yards in 2003.
"Starks saw only a little more than 100 touches, but he had a career year as Lacy's understudy. He ran decisively and looked like the running back who helped carry the Packers to the Super Bowl during his rookie season in 2010.
"Although he missed a month with a torn MCL, Starks returned in time to help steer the Packers' offense when Rodgers went down with a fractured collarbone for seven weeks.
"Lacy garnered NFL offensive rookie of the year honors in rushing for more than 1,100 yards with 11 touchdowns, but admits he can't do it alone. If the Packers plan to run as many as 75 plays a game, one back can't be expected to work every drive of the no-huddle.
"'It's not about one player,' Lacy said. 'We all in the backfield, we all bring something different to the table. We're good at whatever the (assignment) is for us. It helps out the offense at all.'"
In another team development, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews spoke about the penalties that nullified Green Bay's big plays in Saturday's preseason game against the St. Louis Rams, per Hodkiewicz's collegue, Ryan Wood:
"The Packers' offense wasn't alone when it came to penalties nullifying big plays Saturday against the Rams.
"While the Packers had two touchdown passes called back because of hands-to-the-face penalties, the defense saw backup safety Chris Banjo's interception wiped out because of the same penalty.
"Backup defensive end Carlos Gray placed his hands where he shouldn't. Yellow flags fell the turf.
"The NFL's renewed emphasis on illegal hands-to-the-face contact is a new reality for players on both sides of the ball. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers showed his annoyance immediatelyi following the game Saturday, saying the penalty was called too frequently. Outside linebacker simply acknowledge reality.
"'Penalties are just one of (the) things where it looks like we're going to have to deal with it, along with every other team in the league,' Matthews said.
"Matthews was asked if the penalties have been called too much this month. Should the refs dial back when the regular season begins and the games count?
"'I think the preseason is always a chance for...trying to see where the league's at and where they want to go, what direction. I think this is no different,' Matthews said. 'Obviously, there's been a point of emphasis on what seemed like hands to the face, illegal hands to the face, as well as contact pass five yards down field, and they're making an emphasis about that.
"'Yeah, I think it took some -- I think an interception and a touchdown off the board -- which is unfortunate. I know I hate to see that. I'm sure the fans don't like to as well.
"'But ultimately, rules are rules. So you can't really complain too much about it. But, you know, we'll see because obviously the fans drive this game. I'm sure if they're not liking it, we'll change it.'"
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