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Lacy and Franklin Lead Revamped Packers Rushing Attack

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Jonathan Franklin was the star for a young UCLA offense, leading the Bruins to the Pac-12 title game last year.
Jonathan Franklin was the star for a young UCLA offense, leading the Bruins to the Pac-12 title game last year.

The Green Bay Packers bolstered their rushing attack during last month’s NFL Draft.  

Green Bay drafted Alabama’s Eddie Lacy with the 29th pick of the second round. Widely considered the top running back in the draft, Lacy fell to 61st overall due to concerns over toe fusion surgery that he underwent last offseason. For his part, Lacy claims he’ll be ready to go Week 1, but that remains to be seen. As insurance for Lacy, Green Bay selected UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin late in the fourth round.

Both backs bring a different set of skills to Titletown.

Lacy is a downhill rusher, who will be most effective in short-yardage and goal-to-go situations. His rushing style is reminiscent of his predecessor Trent Richardson, who would rather go through than around would-be tacklers. Sorry, Cheesehead faithful, but your days of yelling “Kuhn!” are likely numbered.

In his junior season, Lacy rushed for 6.5 yards per carry – down from 7.1 YPC during his sophomore season – behind the best offensive line in the country. It’d be hard not to have success behind Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker. That’s not to take away from Lacy who was a dominant runner in the SEC, but don’t be surprised if Franklin outperforms Lacy next season.

Franklin, who started at seventh on UCLA’s depth chart, is a potential game-breaker on every touch. Although he doesn’t possess elite speed, Franklin is a shifty back that explodes out of his cuts. In his senior season, Franklin rushed for 1,734 and 13 touchdowns as the only threat out of UCLA’s backfield. Franklin’s receiving-ability is a work in a progress, but his 33 receptions, 323 yards and two touchdowns were more than his previous three seasons combined.

Lacy is likely to be the first down back, but head coach Mike McCarthy has plenty of options when it comes to Franklin. The former Bruins tailback could lineup in the backfield with Lacy or even Randall Cobb. The key is to get the ball to Franklin and Cobb in space where they can pick up yardage. Don’t forget about DuJuan Harris, either. He emerged has the Packers’ top-rushing option at the end of the season and will compete for touches in the suddenly crowded backfield.

It also wouldn’t be shocking to see Green Bay use the read-option now that general manager Ted Thompson has enlisted the proper personnel. Aaron Rodgers is certainly athletic enough to operate out of the pistol formation and McCarthy isn’t one to shy away from innovation. After watching Colin Kaepernick torch his team during the Divisional Round of the playoffs, McCarthy has to be wondering whether the read-option can work for his Packers.

Last season, the Packers offense rushed for 106.4 yards per game, which ranked 20th in the NFL. Green Bay’s leading-rusher was Alex Green who rushed for an anemic 432 yards on 135 carries (3.4 YPC).  Aaron Rodgers finished second at 259 yards.

In 2013, Green Bay is likely to see across the board improvements in its rushing attack. With the addition of Lacy and Franklin, the Packers should be much more balanced this season. And much more dangerous.