The Green Bay Packers drafted two running backs in the first four rounds of the 2013 NFL draft. The idea behind this thinking was to greatly improve on a ground game that's been much less than impressive over the past few seasons.
Both Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin were expected to make an impact during their first season. However, through four preseason games and heading into the regular season, it doesn't seem like that will be the case.
Instead, Lacy was impressive and likely locked up the starting job while Franklin struggled and proved he may still need some time before he makes an impact. In fact, all it takes is two plays to prove just how different these two rookie running backs fared during preseason action.
Let's take a look at one play from Franklin and one play from Lacy to show the difference in play.
The Bad of Johnathan Franklin
The pass-first type of offense that the Green Bay Packers run forces the running backs to often find themselves in pass protection. Those that cannot pick up blitzing opponents don't have much use at all on the field.
Against the Kansas City Chiefs, it was easy to see the deficiencies of Franklin in pass protection. As you can see in the picture below, the Chiefs are showing blitz with Franklin lined up across from B.J. Coleman in the shotgun formation:
In the next picture, Franklin fails to get into position to pick up the blitzing linebacker and finds himself reaching behind him in an attempt to slow down the defender.
Of course, he was completely unsuccessful, as the defender ran right past Franklin and forced the incomplete pass from Coleman.
Had Franklin been a better runner than Lacy, these type of struggles in pass protection might have been overlooked. However, he wasn't better and now the Packers know that Franklin isn't a capable third-down back for passing situations either.
Simply put, there isn't much place at all for Franklin on the field for Green Bay after his preseason performance.
The Good of Eddie Lacy
Coming out of college, Lacy was considering a bruising back with the ability to consistently pick up yards after contact. This ability was clearly shown against the St. Louis Rams in Week 2.
Early in the first quarter, Lacy got the ball from Aaron Rodgers on a stretch to the right side of the line.
He was hit behind the line of scrimmage, as you can see in the picture below, but was able to easily shake off the tackle and cut upfield.
Lacy would break another tackle before getting hit by two Rams players at the 28-yard line, where it appeared that he'd finally be tackled after a solid gain. However, Lacy broke both of those tackles and continued his strong running.
Lacy was finally brought down right before the 20-yard line. All in all, Lacy broke five tackles to gain 15 yards.
In that one play against St. Louis, it was easy to see just the type of impact that Lacy can have for the Packers during his rookie season.
While Green Bay would probably love to get production from both Franklin and Lacy this season, it doesn't seem like that'll be what happens—at least at the beginning of the year.
Who had a better preseason?
Franklin's struggles in pass protection combined with Lacy's ability to break tackles and pick up chunks of yards will likely keep Franklin on the sideline for the majority of the 2013 season. That could change if Franklin can become a more dominant runner than Lacy, but right now, that simply isn't the case.
Instead, Lacy used a strong preseason showing to lock down the No. 1 spot on the depth chart while Franklin's poor preseason performance will likely keep him out of most games.