It's still early in the offseason process for the Green Bay Packers, but at least one thing seems settled at the running back position as according to head coach Mike McCarthy, DuJuan Harris is going to be an important contributor for the Packers in 2013 and will be given an opportunity to earn the starting job.
Here is what McCarthy had to say about Harris on Wednesday, when asked about him being the Packers starting running back in 2013, while speaking at the NFL Owners Meeting per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Oh he’s going to play for us next season. That’s his responsibility if he wants to be the starter."
McCarthy went on further about Harris, talking about his natural athletic ability and the initial difficulty of integrating the talented 5'7" running back in the Packers prolific offensive attack:
"I wish we would have had DuJuan earlier," McCarthy said. "He was a young man that we were just getting ready to try to put in the game. Everybody’s like ‘just put him in there.’ Well, hell, you put him in there, there aren’t too many runs in our offense where we can’t go to a pass and now he’s protecting for Aaron Rodgers.
"That’s why there’s a lot of stress schematically and responsibility wise on our running backs, and that’s not going to change because of our quarterback. Once he got ready, I felt great about the way DuJuan finished the season. Looking forward to having him for an offseason and look for good things for him."
Harris was a late-season revelation for the Packers running game as he ignited a running game that had little explosiveness following the loss of Cedric Benson due to a season-ending injury. The former University of Troy standout carried the ball 34 times for 157 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in the regular season for Green Bay, but was even better in the postseason.
Against the Vikings in the Wild Card round of the 2013 NFL Playoffs, Harris showed his versatility, as he was limited by the Minnesota Vikings to just 47 yards on 17 carries but still managed to impact the game as a pass-catcher, hauling in five receptions for 53 yards and scoring a rushing touchdown. Harris was also solid for the Packers in a 45-31 loss in the Divisional Playoff to the San Francisco 49ers as he carried the ball 11 times for 53 yards, caught two passes for 11 yards and scored a touchdown.
In just six games for Green Bay, Harris scored a total of four rushing touchdowns and showed a burst of speed and athleticism the Packers backfield has been sorely missing the past few seasons.
As of now, McCarthy is planning to pair Harris with another running back, who is either on the roster now or will be added at some point via the 2013 NFL Draft or free agency, but either way one thing is clear—Harris is going to have an important role on the offense this season, just how important will be up to him.