By Jon Meerdink
With Thursday’s signing of John Kuhn, the Packers have more or less locked in their backfield for 2014. But that doesn’t mean no questions remain.
The good news is those questions by and large will not be directed towards the guys at the top of the running back depth chart. Eddie Lacy? Good to go, and the only question he’ll have to answer this year is if he can be more effective when he has Aaron Rodgers loosening up defenses for him. (Answer: probably yes.)
The same goes for Kuhn, who heads up the fullback portion of the depth chart. By simply lasting this long in the NFL, he’s probably answered any real questions anyone could have about him, and now all that remains is “could his beard get any awesomer?” and “will he have any more heroic moments this year?” and “why does everyone think yelling your name is fun?” (Answers – no, maybe, and I can’t imagine.)
But beyond that, everyone seems to be fair game. Here are the four returning backs on the roster and the questions associated with them.
James Starks – Can you keep up the explosive, slashing style we saw in 2013?
Even though he was never really the lead dog, James Starks had his best year as a pro in 2013. He scored more touchdowns, posted a higher yards per carry average, and was generally just better than any other time we’ve seen James Starks, showing himself to be the solid runner we saw during the 2010 Super Bowl run. But can he do it again? In 2013, Starks tied his career high for games played with 13. He’s never been the most durable player in the world, and now that he’s inked another contract, it’s incumbent on him to show that he can stay on the field and be the solid back-up he was last season.
DuJuan Harris was a nice story in 2012, but 2012 was two years ago. Posting some inspiring games down the stretch that year was nice, but now there’s a big time back in town with Eddie Lacy. Harris has to prove he belongs on this team all over again. Samkon Gado was also a nice story, but he never became anything more than a flash in the pan. Can Harris be more?
Johnathan Franklin – Which Johnathan Franklin are you?
Of all the enigmatic players on the Packers’ roster, Franklin might be the most puzzling. He has undeniable physical gifts, is one of the alleged “good guys” out there, and just seems like he really wants to succeed. And he did! At least mostly. For that one game. Or half. Until he fumbled. See what I mean? Franklin has to show that he can stand up to the pounding of the NFL and thrive under the pressure that comes from handling the football for an NFL team. He showed flashes (however brief). Now he has to show consistency.
Michael Hill – Are you more than a DII wonder?
HIll spent a little time on the Packers roster last year, but never saw duty outside of special teams. He was crazy productive in college, but at DII Missouri Western the competition isn’t quite what it is in the SEC, Big 10, or what have you, and certainly not anywhere close to the NFL. Showing he can translate his physical gifts to the NFL might earn him another crack at a roster spot, even if it is only as a special teams player. After all, you never know when someone will go down.