James Starks Will Fail to Repeat Early Success in Week 3 Against Bengals

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2013

Nov 4, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA;  Green Bay Packers running back James Starks (44) during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field.  The Packers defeated the Cardinals 31-17.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Green Bay Packers fourth-year running back James Starks caught national attention last week as he erupted for 132 yards and a touchdown against Washington.

While 100-yard performances are not normally a huge deal, they certainly are in Green Bay as NFL Network's Ian Rapoport details:

Another time a back going for over 100 yards is a jaw-dropping performance is when it occurs against the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that surrendered over 100 yards to a running back just two times in 2012 and has yet to do so this season.

Unfortunately for Starks, who is filling in for injured rookie starter Eddie Lacy, Cincinnati is the Packers' Week 3 opponent as Green Bay travels to Paul Brown Stadium.

Cincinnati has yet to skip a beat defensively in 2013. It returns every starter from its elite 2012 unit except linebacker Manny Lawson, who was replaced with James Harrison. The unit headed up by defensive tackle Geno Atkins has surrendered just 125 total rushing yards through two contests.

Further diluting Starks' chance for a repeat performance of surpassing the century mark in Cincinnati is that last week marked his first ever 100-yard game. Starks has scored all of three times in his four-year career and has struggled during his opportunities in the past despite defenses being forced to focus on Aaron Rodgers and his wealth of weapons.

Credit goes to Starks for seizing his big moment against Washington, but there's another red flag on his breakout performance—the Redskins' defense is a joke.

Washington is ranked dead last in defending the run this year, by a long shot. The unit has seemed completely lost in that phase, incorrectly filling gaps and taking questionable routes to the football before failing to tackle properly.

Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy went off for 184 yards on his own against the unit in Week 1; the Eagles as a whole rushed for 263 yards. It should come as no surprise Starks was able to find success against Washington's defense.

Starks is a nice story in Green Bay, but he's nothing more than a fill-in for Lacy, who sounds like a go after the team's Week 4 bye. If the coaching staff were confident in Starks' ability to carry the load for a full season, Lacy would not have been brought in via the draft in the first place.

Starks will struggle as most backs do against the Bengals. The good news for the Packers, though, is the offense does not need Starks to have a big game to win. Rather, Starks needs to simply keep the Cincinnati defense honest.

Starks' most important contribution to a possible victory is his ability to catch passes out of the backfield, which he did well last week with five receptions for 44 yards. A repeat performance in that regard will help to nullify Cincinnati's elite pass rush that Atkins and defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson catalyze.

Versatility is key for Starks in Week 3. He won't hit the 100-yard mark, and he especially won't average 6.6 yards per carry again. It's a rare feat against a vaunted Cincinnati defense, and Green Bay needs to look to other offensive weapons to pull out a victory on the road.  


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