The Green Bay Packers' running game is finally showing signs of life, keyed by the Week 9 re-emergence of RB James Starks. Sunday's performance makes the 2010 sixth-round pick in particular worth a fantasy flier over the other options in the Pack's packed backfield.
Both Starks and recent starter Alex Green split carries evenly with six apiece in the first half of Sunday's game against Arizona. Green's numbers were skewed by a 21-yard burst as he registered six carries for 39 yards, while Starks notched 28 yards with a long run of just nine.
That shows the consistency Starks ran with in Lambeau, and affirmed the recent sentiment of the Packers' staff in recent practices. Head coach Mike McCarthy specifically articulated how good Starks looked during the week of preparation (h/t Gary D'Amato of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel):
We're really encouraged with how James Starks looked this week. He looks like he's ready to go so he may have some opportunities...As far as the way we rotate James and Alex, that's something that we'll finalize here as we get together as a staff. I thought James, the last two weeks, really looked like his old self.
It appears the consensus was to give the two backs a very equal workload and assess where to go from there.
Green himself was more of a heavy investment by GM Ted Thompson as a third-round draftee last year. Unfortunately, Green's rookie year was over after Week 7 due to a knee injury.
Starks has been ailing due to a nasty, nagging turf toe injury, particularly difficult for running backs to endure. LaDainian Tomlinson had to fight the pain later on in his career, and it ultimately led to the beginning of his decline.
Judging by McCarthy's assessment of Starks, though, it appears he has overcome that huge hurdle to return to being his usual self on the field. As a rookie, Starks rose to the top of the depth chart late in the season and provided a stellar running game for the team's Super Bowl run.
Timeshare is a concern for fantasy owners, but the receiving ability of Starks and Green should give each of them equal opportunities on third-down passing situations. In PPR leagues, Starks should still get enough opportunities in the passing game even if Green is still utilized.
As a runner, Green has simply been ineffective in three prior opportunities as the workhorse. He managed only 154 yards on 65 carries in three starts. That is not starting-caliber material any way you slice it.
The fact that Starks got an equal workload just two weeks back from a long-term injury shows the Packers' faith in him—and could very well indicate Green's time as the majority ball carrier winding to a close.
After Green struggled in the second half, Starks went on to register the most carries for Green Bay on the day, ultimately finishing with 17 carries for 61 yards in obvious late-game running scenarios.
As long as he continues to consistently rip off chunks of yardage like he did against the Cardinals, Starks should land the starting job sooner than later, thus earning viability as a fantasy flier.