What to Expect from Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers Offense in Week 9 vs. Bears

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2013

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 17: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packershands the ball off to Eddie Lacy #27 of the Green Bay Packers during a preseason game against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on August 17, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

It's official. Green Bay Packers' Eddie Lacy, currently averaging the 10th-most yards per game in the league, may go down as Ted Thompson's best offensive draft pick since Aaron Rodgers in 2005. 

Now, this Monday, it's time for him to meet the team he'll be facing for many years, if all goes well—the Chicago Bears.

What you can first expect is for the Packers to get off to big start versus Chicago's 27th-ranked defense. Green Bay has scored 23 points on opening possessions in '13, good for 5th in the NFL.

Eddie Lacy and the Run Game

Many wondered, with James Starks activated for last Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings, how having both a healthy Starks and Lacy available for the first time since Week 1 in San Francisco (as Lacy left the game with a concussion after just one carry in Week 2) would affect Lacy's carries.

If that game (table below) is any indication, while Mike McCarthy plans to get Starks more carries and use Starks and Lacy as a one-two punch in the run game, Lacy has clearly become the system's workhorse. 

Eddie Lacy and James Starks' Production Week 8 @ Vikings
Eddie LacyJames Starks
Rushing Yards9457
Avg. Yards per Carry3.28.1
Rushing TDs11
Receiving Yards18-
Avg. Yards per Catch4.5-
Receiving TDs0-

"You can sit here and draw the stuff up on a napkin and you'd probably want to balance it out a little more," McCarthy said in a press conference last Monday, via ESPN Wisconsin. "But at the end of the day, you're in the game. Eddie was in a groove so we stayed the way we did and obviously it worked out well."

Against the Bears' anemic No. 25 run defense, which has been giving up 117.3 yards per game, McCarthy only stands to gain from doubling down on Lacy and Starks on the ground game.

That each was able to score a rushing touchdown against the Vikings proves the system can accommodate them both. And though both are downhill-style runners, unlike change-of-pace back Johnathan Franklin (who did not make an appearance in Minnesota), they have different strengths that complement an offense like Green Bay's, which is not built to support a feature back who can do it all. 

Lacy's greatest asset is the fact that he's always moving, even after contact. Watch any play, like the one below, and you will find that Lacy rarely goes down where he is first tackled. 

Lacy keeps his legs moving to consistently gain more yards after the tackle.
Lacy keeps his legs moving to consistently gain more yards after the tackle.

On this nine-yard run, Chris Cook first makes contact with Lacy at the 44-yard line.

However, Lacy executes a spin move to propel himself forward... 

...and is able to gain four yards on the play, going down at the 40-yard line, just by being physical and keeping his body in motion. Many of Lacy's runs end that way. 

Lacy was contacted at the 44-yard line, but pushes forward to the 40-yard line for an extra four yards.
Lacy was contacted at the 44-yard line, but pushes forward to the 40-yard line for an extra four yards.

If Lacy's power is his best trait, Starks' speed is his. Make no mistake, Starks is no shrimpbut even though Starks is three inches taller than Lacy, Lacy is more than 10 pounds heavier.

Take another look at the table above from the Vikings game. Starks averaged more than double as many yards per attempt as Lacy, proving he has the ability to give the offense big gains on the ground.

As McCarthy told Packers.com, "The pace that James brought into the game in Minnesota was uplifting for us. It's important to run the football, and when you have two big men running and falling forward, it definitely adds to your production."

To quantify that production, Green Bay is No. 3 in rushing yards per game in 2013, averaging 141.4, after ending 2012 ranked 20th, with just 106.4 on average. 

The Packers have amassed that total having gone against run defenses in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Baltimore, San Francisco, Detroit and even Minnesota that are currently ranked higher than Chicago.

(Of Green Bay's previous opponents in 2013, Washington's run defense, currently at No. 30, is ranked lower than Chicago's).

And because Chicago has allowed the fourth-most rushing touchdowns in the NFL (8), don't be surprised if Green Bay adds at least two more on the ground Monday. 

Starks and Lacy can have a huge day at home against the Bears. And in doing so, they will enable the success of Aaron Rodgers and the aerial attack.  

Oct 13, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jarrett Boykin (11) dives for a pass in the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Rodgers and Name-Your-Receiver

Just how much does an established run game help Rodgers and his weapons through the air? As the Packers sit near the top of the league in rushing yards per game at No. 3, there, too, is Rodgers, with 313 passing yards per game on average, which is good for the No. 5 overall passing offense.

That kind of balanced attack will be nothing but a headache for the Bears on Monday. Their passing defense is ranked a spot lower than their run defense, at 26th-overall

How the once-vaunted Chicago defense, which finished 2012 eighth against both the run and pass, has fallen to the bottom of the league deserves its own 1,000-word post.

Suffice it to say that a combination of factors, including the loss of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, linebacker Brian Urlacher and defensive tackle Henry Melton for the season to a torn ACL, have sent shock waves throughout the organization. 

And for, perhaps, the first time in a decade, the matchup between the high-octane Green Bay offense and this flailing Chicago defense will be wildly unmatched.

Just how much so? The Packers are scoring an average of 30.3 points per game. Chicago, meanwhile, is allowing 29.4. 

Green Bay vs. Chicago: Weighing the Matchup
Green BayChicago
Offense (Overall)2nd10th
Passing Offense5th11th
Rushing Offense3rd14th
Defense (Overall)11th27th
Passing Defense20th26th
Rushing Defense4th25th

It's no secret that Green Bay is suffering through an injury epidemic with pass-catchers. James Jones is likely to return for Monday's game, which means a team that has been doing a stellar job with a myriad group of rookies and practice squad-upgrades will get that much better.

The injured Jones, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley account for less than half (107) of Rodgers' 249 pass targets this season.

The other 142 targets have been divided among, in order: Jordy Nelson (with the lion's share, at 53), Jarrett Boykin, Eddie Lacy, Andrew Quarless, Myles White, James Starks, John Kuhn, Johnathan Franklin, Ryan Taylor and Jeremy Ross (now released).

That's quite a list.

Here's another way to think about it.

In 2012, Jones, Cobb and Finley combined to score 150 points

Through 7 games in 2013, they have only scored 42...but the Packers are still No. 3 overall in the NFL in points per game. 

It just goes to show that Thompson could plug a broken light bulb into Green Bay's system, and Rodgers would find a way to make it shine.


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