Last April, after selecting UCLA DT Datone Jones in the first round, the Packers drafted Eddie Lacy late in the second round with the 61st overall pick. After Green Bay gave up 51 sacks in 2012, which was second worst in the NFL behind only Arizona, Packers general manager Ted Thompson clearly was looking to find a workhorse-type runner to take some pressure of the offensive line and help preserve the health of their franchise quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
Lacy was our No. 1-ranked running back in the 2013 draft class. However, durability issues, along with a pedestrian pro day, played a part in him being the fourth overall running back taken last April. Lacy dealt with minor injuries throughout his final two years at Alabama and was unable to work out at the NFL combine last February because of a slight tear in his hamstring.
That said, when healthy, Lacy displays above-average feet, top-end speed and good vision for a 231-pound running back. These go along with elite power, balance and determination. All this was on display during his strong finish to the 2012 season where he played a huge part in Alabama’s national title run by accumulating 321 total yards and three touchdowns against Georgia in the SEC Championship and Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship.
Lacy’s rookie season did not get off to a fast start. He missed time during training camp to deal with minor injuries, including a strained hamstring, that forced him to miss the opening preseason game against Arizona. Then he suffered a concussion against Washington in Week 2, missing the majority of that contest and keeping him out the following week against Cincinnati.
The Packers had their bye week following a four-point loss to the Bengals. This allowed Lacy time to heal, and he has looked as healthy as he’s been since the end of last season. In fact, in the past three weeks against Detroit, Baltimore and Cleveland, he has 88 carries and accumulated 301 of his 352 total yards rushing this season.
I had a chance to sit down and watch the coaches' copy tape of the Baltimore game, which was the exact performance the Packers envisioned when selecting Lacy. He gave the Packers balance and carried a heavy load, gaining 120 yards on 23 carries. He showed nice patience using his blocks and was able to exploit cutback lanes throughout the contest. Lacy displayed the power and balance as a finisher and was consistently able to churn out hidden yardage.
Most importantly, Lacy also played a huge part in preserving a Packers lead on the road, which is something they have not had from that position in recent years. He had eight carries in the fourth quarter for 44 yards, including a 4-yard run to ice the game with a first down on the Packers final drive while holding onto a 19-17 lead.
Lacy lacks ideal versatility in the passing game and still has room for improvement in a few areas. Like most young running backs, he needs the most development in pass protection. Lacy was late picking up a few blitzes, and he needs to do a better job of keeping his eyes up upon contact and being firmer at the point of attack. The good news is he has the size and anchor to improve in this area.
The biggest issue for Lacy moving forward will be staying healthy. If he is able to do so, Green Bay appears to have found the bell cow they have been wanting. The Ravens game was a snapshot of the balance Lacy can provide to the Packers offense -- which has been the Achilles' heel for this unit during playoff time in recent years.