Packers’ run attack worth a 1,000 yards

Lacy, Franklin hope to be Green Bay’s 1-2 punch
Last week on Sports Line – the afternoon sports radio talk show I host on The Fan – I asked Packers’ fans to air their grievances. It seems their level of satisfaction is almost as high as their optimism. There wasn’t much griping and few complaints.
Can one draft class and a reshuffled offensive line really make fans forget the number “579” and the 45-31 playoff loss at San Francisco?
Yes, it appears that it can.
Packers’ fans are hopeful and expectant all at once. They know the 49ers shredded the Green Bay defense for 579 yards, but they also know GM Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy are working to plug the sieve.
Thompson selected UCLA defensive end Datone Jones with the 26th pick, a move designed to balance the defense (with Clay Matthews on the other side), add depth to the defensive line and boost the pass rush.
The retooled offensive line came as a mild but pleasant surprise.
McCarthy had to do something. Aaron Rodgers was running for his life way too often. That or he was being sacked 51 times. Furthermore, the Packers’ long-absent running game showed only faint signs of life.
So will rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin be the answer to what ails the Packers’ running game?
Yes and here’s why: Both have more talent than any other Packers’ backs in the past decade. If one gets injured, the other can carry the load along with DuJuan Harris. The talent here is sure to make Packers’ fans “ooh” and “aah” early and often.
It has been a long time since the Packers had a 1,000-yard rusher. Lacy looks to be a great candidate based on his resume and his attitude. At the Packers’ rookie camp this weekend, Lacy showed a willingness to work hard and accept whatever role he is asked to fill.
Lacy also has a chip on his shoulder pad since being asked about his toe fusion surgery. That occurred before his junior season at Alabama. Just because the Pittsburgh Steelers’ medical staff wouldn’t clear him doesn’t mean the Packers’ medical staff made a mistake.
Lacy is determined to go on to become a powerful lead back.
Franklin, who has 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, is tough for his size (5-10, 207) and also possesses great hands. He becomes an immediate threat out of the backfield and on screens and draws.
Franklin was aggressive during the Packers’ rookie camp, and his enthusiasm in being able to participate (there was a question because UCLA is on the semester system), this fourth-rounder is ready to roll.
Here are several other questions that Packers’ fans raised on The Fan: Who will emerge at safety opposite Morgan Burnett?
The best guess among a group that includes: M.D. Jennings, Jeron McMillian and Sean Richardson. Right now, Jennings and McMillian appear locked in a tight battle. The likely scenario is that Jennings wins the job out of training camp, but McMillian pushes him.
Fans want to know if James Jones can find a way to repeat the big numbers that he posted last season.
Jones has been ascending for the past several years, and he has maximized his opportunities. Jones left to try his luck in free agency, didn’t like what was out there and returned to the Packers. That dose of humility, coupled with talent and opportunity, conspired to hasten Jones’ breakout season.
I would expect nothing less this season.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio ( Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.