Crosby, Jolly and Hyde also play well in Week 2 exhibition at St. Louis
By CHRIS HAVEL
Perhaps a week into training camp Eddie Lacy made a lasting impression during a goal-line segment of practice. The Packers’ rookie running back took a handoff, stayed patient and then lowered his shoulders pads and barreled through a tiny hole into the end zone.
In that single carry Lacy showed the attributes associated with good running backs. He combined vision, decisiveness, balance and explosiveness to get the touchdown.
In Green Bay’s 19-7 victory Saturday night at St. Louis, Lacy showed all that and more in an impressive debut in the Week 2 exhibition game. The second-round draft pick from Alabama rushed eight times for 40 yards including a 15-yard run that featured a spin move, two broken tackles and a lot for Packers fans to look forward to.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was impressed, if not surprised.
“If you go back to his college film and his ability to not waste any steps that is something that I’ve always looked for in a runner – particulary a good north-and-south (runner) with his body type,” McCarthy said.
“We wanted to give him some opportunities,” he added. “We visited with him before the game. I wanted to make sure that he was all the way back from his injury and I think that was evident tonight. He clearly took advantage of his opportunities.”
In addition to Lacy’s rushing yards, he also had an 11-yard reception and seemed to be competent in blitz pick-up and overall awareness. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers liked what he saw of Lacy.
“I think we’ve had quality running backs here in the past,” he said. “It’s just a matter of doing a better job of scheme that fits our personnel and the game up front and making the most of the athleticism we have with those guys.”
Rodgers added, “And then we have a back that has very good patience in Eddie. But there are six guys who have run the ball really well in camp. I think it’s a fun competition to watch and we’ll see what happens moving forward, but Eddie had a very good night.”
Rodgers was being diplomatic. James Starks has been OK, while Alex Green has been improved. Beyond that, DuJuan Harris has had minimal practice time and no game time, Johnathan Franklin has been mediocre at best.
That collective ho-hum is why Lacy’s emergence is so critical. If he can develop into the lead dog, which is why the Packers selected him with the 44th overall pick, it takes a lot of pressure off the other running backs, in particular, and the offense in general.
The offense’s ability to get defenses to bite on play-action is predicated on Lacy (or any of the backs) being more than just average. When the defense responds to Rodgers’ fake to Lacy, it opens up passing lanes for players such as Jermichael Finley to exploit. Finley had four catches for 78 yards. He was especially explosive after the catch, and seemed more focused than in last week’s game. Rodgers and Finley also nearly connected for a touchdown.
“On our side of the ball,” Rodgers said, “I thought Jermichael was awesome. He’s had a great spring, summer and camp, and I’m excited about his progress moving forward and the role he’s going to play in our offense. We need to find more ways to get him the ball.”
For his part, Finley is ready to roll up some big numbers with Rodgers.
“It felt good,” he said. “It comes from the chemistry that I have with ‘12’ and it’s started off pretty good.”
Asked what he can do to maintain that chemistry, Finley said, “Catch the ball and run your routes.”
Short, sweet and to the point – just like Finley’s game against the Rams.
Another strong effort came from Johnny Jolly, who is trying to put his life and his game back together, and appears to be succeeding. Jolly had an interception, and contributed to another by Jarrett Bush, in an evening that showcased his strong comeback. His stamina is up, as is his spirits, and his teammates are excited for him.
Rodgers said it showed in the way teammates were cheering for Jolly after the interception. Jolly also got good penetration inside on the pass rush, and also played the run solid. It was a strong step toward securing a roster spot.
Rookie Micah Hyde also bounced back in strong fashion. After giving up a 57-yard completion from Sam Bradford to Chris Givens, he rallied to get a near interception and play smart, active football the rest of the way. He added a nifty 13-yard punt return and defended two passes while also registering a sack. Hyde has positioned himself nicely for a spot on the 53-man roster.
In one of the marquee training camp battles, it appears Mason Crosby took a step ahead of Giorgio Tavecchio by connecting on 3-of-3 field goal attempts, while Tavecchio missed a 49-yard try wide left.
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