Green Bay Packers backup RB’s in a battle : Packers Insider

Green Bay Packers backup RB’s in a battle

November 17, 2010 by  
Filed under News

Nov 17, 2010 ~ by Lori Nickel, Journal-Sentinel

~Green Bay — Running back Brandon Jackson is challenging himself to have a strong second half of the season for the Green Bay Packers.

The question is whether he’ll get any support, beyond backup John Kuhn, from two complete unknowns in the running for the third-string job.

Rookie James Starks practiced Monday, his first real session since he hurt his hamstring just before training camp started. The injury was another major setback for the sixth-round pick from Buffalo, who missed his entire senior season after needing shoulder surgery in August 2009.

The last time Starks played in a game was Jan. 3, 2009 in the International Bowl.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Starks looked "dang good" in practice. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound back set Buffalo's single-season rushing record with 1,333 yards in 2008, and the Packers hope to recapture that ability at some point.

“It feels a lot longer. I’ve been out for a while,” Starks said Monday. “I’m just getting back into things, getting back gradually. I started getting more comfortable and feeling like myself again.”

After sitting out all of camp, Starks spent the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list. After that, the Packers coaches gave him another three weeks off and then activated him. He then still had the bye week off before finally practicing for the first time.

The Packers have shown how much they believe in the potential of Starks by being remarkably patient. They’ve always had the option of just shelving Starks on injured reserve for the year.

“I wasn’t really worried. I always looked at things in a positive light,” Starks said. “If I was placed on injured reserve, that was time to get better. I would have used it as a tool to help myself.”

Instead, Starks said the hamstring gradually got better.

“And I feel you’ve got to learn to play with injuries anyway,” Starks said. “About the time I was off PUP, it was just enough time to really feel good and start picking up the tempo.”

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Starks looked “dang good” in practice. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound back set Buffalo’s single-season rushing record with 1,333 yards in 2008, and the Packers hope to recapture that ability at some point.

“He’s a big, physical, athletic runner. He’s got a lot to learn,” McCarthy said. “He needs the details of the little work, the little things that you get into the team periods. I think we had 24 plays of the opponent team, and he may have ran the ball on 18 of them, and that’s exactly what he needs, because that’s what he missed. He missed a big part of the spring, he missed all of training camp. He’s missed a lot of football.”

But McCarthy also said the Packers were through with the evaluation process of Starks. Now that he’s on the 53-man roster, Starks’ next goal it to crack the active 45 on game day.

“He’s competing to play,” McCarthy said. “In our Tuesday meetings, we stack the board, how you get from 53 to 45, this player is competing against that player. Special teams is usually the tiebreaker. He needs to compete to get up on the field on Sundays.”

That means Starks is competing with Dimitri Nance, a 5-10, 219-pound rookie out of Arizona State who was picked up off Atlanta’s practice squad after starter Ryan Grant was lost for the year in Week 1. In 11 starts for the Sun Devils in 2009, he led the team in rushing with 795 yards on 188 carries (4.2 average) and had six touchdowns.

While Starks took his snaps with the scout team Monday during the portion of practice open to the media, Nance ran a lot of plays with the regular offense. He wasn’t on the scout team at all.

Nance said Monday he’s got a better grasp on the offense since he joined the Packers in mid-September. What he hasn’t had are a lot of chances. In the six games in which he’s been active, he has only six carries for 11 yards.

The sentiment among a few players is that the Packers are in fact still looking at Starks. Nance hopes he has earned the trust of the coaches to give him more of an opportunity.

“I am still just grinding, to be ready whenever they call my name,” Nance said. “I’m just going to keep pushing.”

Nance described his running style as quick and powerful, with the ability to be a little elusive by breaking arm tackles.

Running backs coach Edgar Bennett stresses many responsibilities for his backs. Besides pass protection – they must do their share – they must be secure with the football.

Nance said he’s not a fumbler.

“My whole life I’ve been pretty good with ball security,” Nance said. “My junior year I tore a ligament in my thumb and I fumbled the ball a lot. I had a little cast on it. I tried to carry in my left hand but sometimes I would switch over.”

Basically, the Packers don’t know what they have in Starks or Nance until they get some playing time.

Full story HERE

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