Most coaches don’t want to call out their players in public, but on getaway day in Green Bay, Mike McCarthy had other ideas when it came to embattled running back Eddie Lacy.
“Eddie’s got a lot of work to do,” the coach said ominously. “I think I’m stating the obvious. His offseason last year was not good enough and he never recovered from it.”
Lacy did indeed take a major step backward in his third NFL season, and it was almost all entirely due to his fitness level.
A two-time 1,000-yard rusher, the Alabama product was benched at points throughout the season for James Starks, and it came in a year where his hard-running style would have been welcomed because of Jordy Nelson’s preseason ACL injury, along with some spotty play up front on the offensive line.
When Nelson, a legit No. 1 receiver with an impressive blend of size, speed, route-running ability and hands, is on the field Green Bay sports one of the best receiving corps in the game. While Nelson handles the heavy lifting outside the numbers, Randall Cobb is a difference maker in the slot, and players like James Jones or Davante Adams can be a handful for a third corner.
With Nelson on the sideline, however, the dominoes fell and Cobb became just another guy with extra attention or a true lockdown corner shadowing him. Jones and Adams, meanwhile, aren’t good enough to be legit No. 2’s (at least consistently) and young players like Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis are a long way off.
Add in an offensive line using four different left tackles and you can kind of picture why Aaron Rodgers’ numbers weren’t exactly Rodgers-esque in 2015.
Lacy could have helped change that if he came into the season in shape because you have to believe McCarthy and offensive coordinator Tom Clements would have leaned on the running game more, which would have made things far easier on Rodgers by putting more play action on the table.
Instead, the coaching staff was forced to put Lacy on a string because of his lack of conditioning, something they will no longer put up with.
“I had a chance to talk to Eddie today and (his weight) was pretty much the majority of our whole conversation,” McCarthy said.
The talent remains as evidenced by Lacy’s career-best 61-yard run in Saturday’s divisional-round overtime loss to Arizona. The 240-plus-pound back, though, clearly ran out of gas during the run, something that only highlighted McCarthy’s point on Monday.
That said, Lacy remains one of the more physical backs in all of football despite career lows is every meaningful statistical category, all because of that poor fitness level. So, it’s hard to imagine Green Bay throwing in the towel on such a gifted player.
“I think, as a team, we’re disappointed in the fact that we didn’t accomplish our ultimate goal, and obviously, (Lacy) plays an important part in that,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett, a former Packers running back himself told ESPN.com. “As far as how do we get him back to perform at that high level? We continue to educate and demand — and we support. I think that’s a big part of it.”
There are different types of support, however, and the boss’ emotional-prize wheel landed on tough love with a declarative statement.
“He cannot play at the weight he did this year,” McCarthy said.
Your move Eddie.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season every day at 4:05 ET on ESPN South Jersey, on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the Sports Bash on ESPN South Jersey.
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