As the NFL becomes more about speed and athleticism, Eddie Lacy constantly brings us back to old-school football. As he enters his second season for the Green Bay Packers, the former Alabama back now has his eyes set on being the next legendary power back.
Lacy is coming off a rookie campaign that saw him run his way to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. While his numbers aren't as impressive as other legendary power backs, they are certainly impressive:
|Top "Power" Running Backs' Rookie Seasons|
|Player||Games Played||Attempts||Rushing Yards||Rushing TDs|
One thing that separates Lacy from the likes of Jerome Bettis, Earl Campbell and Jim Brown is the presence of an elite quarterback. With Aaron Rodgers, the Packers simply don't need to rely on Lacy as much as Bettis, Campbell and Brown were relied on during their careers.
However, when Rodgers got injured early in Week 9, Lacy took over as the focal point of the offense. During those eight games that Rodgers missed, Lacy had 666 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
If you stretch those numbers over a full season, Lacy would have rushed for 1,332 yards and 14 touchdowns. That would put him right in line with what other legendary power backs averaged as rookies.
One area where Lacy really excelled, and the main reason he's considered a power back, is yards after contact. He picked up 693 yards, over half his total rushing yards, after he was hit for the first time, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
His numbers are definitely impressive, but that's only the start for getting to legendary status.
What Lacy needs to do to ultimately be mentioned in the same sentence as the legendary power backs of old is remain consistent throughout his career. One thing that will ultimately help Lacy reach that goal is his need to be perfect.
In an interview with Packers.com writer Mike Spofford, Lacy spoke of the perfectionist in him:
In the beginning, I definitely second-guessed myself a lot. I wanted to be as close to perfect as possible. I didn’t want to mess up. I didn’t want to fumble the ball like I did in the first game. I didn’t want to be the person that the guy I’m supposed to block is hitting the quarterback. I never wanted to be that guy, so I was overly cautious. As the season went along, things slowed down for me. It got a little bit simpler, and I was able to play to my natural ability at that point.
To think that the game is getting easier for Lacy and that it's becoming more natural for him should scare the heck out of opposing defenses. If Lacy was able to dominate teams during his rookie season, he's only going to be better during his sophomore campaign.
What could ultimately keep Lacy from becoming a power-back legend is his health. He struggled with injuries during his rookie season, playing the last handful of games with an ankle injury. His career at Alabama was also filled with injuries, including problems with toes, hands and hamstrings.
With all that said, Lacy has been completely healthy throughout the offseason so far. In fact, he's playing with some "pep in his step," according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
As long as Lacy can continue to stay injury-free, there's no reason why he shouldn't continue to be one of the better backs in the league. And if he can keep up his current type of production for long enough, then being mentioned in the same sentence as Bettis, Campbell or even Brown wouldn't be a stretch at all.
Lacy's on the right path to be the next legendary NFL power back. All we need to do is sit back and enjoy it.