Can James Starks Please the Green Bay Packers in 2012?

Greg MaiolaSenior Analyst IIJuly 8, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 16: James Starks #44 of the Green Bay Packers runs up field against the St. Louis Rams at Lambeau Field on October 16, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The Packers beat the Rams 24-3.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

With 4,643 passing yards and 45 touchdown throws, Aaron Rodgers earned the right to be mentioned as the game's elite quarterback. With a 15-1 record in 2011, the Packers proved that they are a force to be reckoned with.

But over the course of the season, something was lacking.

The rushing attack just wasn't there last season, plain and simple. Ryan Grant rushed for 559 yards but only found the end zone twice on the ground. The Pack washed their hands of Grant heading into 2012, making the job James Starks' to lose.

Starks came up huge for Green Bay in their Super Bowl run in 2010. His athleticism and maturity for a rookie led to greater expectations in 2011. However, Starks managed 578 yards on the ground and crossed the goal line once.

The Packers have seen flashes from Starks and want him to reach his potential in 2012. When he has stayed healthy, he has been a very productive player. Starks is in position to be the starting running back, but he must first prove his worth. Alex Green and Brandon Saine will be waiting for their opportunity to shine, and if history repeats itself, Starks will give them a chance.

The problem with Starks is his durability. As a rookie in 2010, he missed 13 games. Last season, Starks missed three games as well. While at Buffalo, an injury cost Starks his senior year and allowed him to slip to Green Bay in the sixth round.

Injuries are inevitable in football. But teams have depth, and players ready to step in and contribute. If Starks gets sidelined again, perhaps Green or Saine can take advantage of the opportunity like Starks did in the 2010 playoffs. His glimpses of brilliance have been overshadowed by stretches of injuries and inconsistency.

Starks remains a mystery heading into 2012. He has the playmaking opportunity and the right situation for a breakout season. He also has a chance to prove doubters right if he gets sidelined again.

But all that matters for Starks is that he stays on the field. If he's on the field, he produces. If he produces, the defense becomes vulnerable to Rodgers' monster arm and the Packers' monster aerial threat. And if that happens, the Pack will be nearly impossible to contain in 2012.