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Ryan Grant Or James Starks?

August 29, 2011

Heading into training camp, the question of who would be the Packers starting running back this year created a significant amount of buzz. And yet, the more I see of Ryan Grant and James Starks, the more I think it is less of a competition between the two and more of a cooperation.

In head coach Mike McCarthy’s pass-happy offense, a featured back is a rarity, but both players have strengths to complement the offense.

Incumbent Ryan Grant is a hard-nosed runner who gets better as the game – and the season – wears on. Always secure with the ball, he’s the type of north-south runner the team wants carrying the ball at Lambeau Field in the December snow.

Starks, on the other hand, is shifty and elusive. He possesses the ability to make defenders miss and the speed to turn the corner and make plays outside of the tackles. Starks has also shown a knack to make the most of screen passes, a trait which could help him stay on the field more this season.

I like screen passes,” said Starks after Friday night’s preseason tilt against the Indianapolis Colts. “They leave you in the open, you get to crate stuff and make a person miss. You could take them to the house. You never know where it will go.”

McCarthy has stated that he will play the running back with the “hot hand”, but with Grant’s and Starks’ complementing running styles, it may continue to be a shared role.

Following the Indianapolis game, Grant articulated how the tempo of the game will dictate how the Packers choose to divide up the play calling.

You never know how games are going to play out,” Grant said. “We went into the Colts game thinking we were going to run the ball a lot. Just with the way the game played out, we didn’t. You have to maximize what you have and make sure you’re doing your assignment. We had some looks in that game that were different from what we wanted to do.”

The Packers know as well as anyone around the league that position depth is the key to success in today’s injury-filled NFL. With Ryan Grant and James Starks, the Packers are set to run this season.

Now all the duo needs to do is convince their head coach to call more running plays.

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