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Packers hope Lacy can make difference against Niners

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By Tyler Dunne
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
September 6, 2013

GREEN BAY--More patience, more commitment would help. Better blocking? Yeah, that too.

But in two meetings with San Francisco last season, the Green Bay Packers also didn’t have this type of running back. Eddie Lacy is powerful, large. The football gods sculpted Lacy for games like this.

“I think it will help out,” Lacy said of his size. “I’ll be able to pound them and pretty much try to wear them down as much as I can.”

Such wear-them-down talk would’ve been comical in 2012. But this is the running back Green Bay hopes to unleash on defenses in 2013. Immediately, the Packers will find out what kind of difference Lacy could make on their offense. The 5-foot-11, (generously listed) 230-pound rookie could help Green Bay in countless ways.

Establishing balance. Play action. Exploiting nickel defenses. Giving the run game its long-lost edge.

Yet to date, Eddie Lacy has been a hypothesis. On Sunday, the Packers begin to find out if Lacy is, indeed, the player who helps them close the gap on San Francisco in the NFC.

“I wouldn’t say I’m putting pressure on myself,” Lacy said, “but I’m going to go out and do what I was drafted to do. At the end of the day, it’s football so I’m going to go out and execute.”

Green Bay needed a bully on the block, a one-man battering ram.

In the two losses that sandwiched last season, the 49ers took the Packers’ lunch money with ease. Dictating Sunday’s game begins with “tempo, tempo,” center Evan Dietrich-Smith repeated. For Lacy, for the Packers, it all begins with the no-huddle offense. As players stressed during training camp, they want to speed it up this season.

More plays leads to more points and Green Bay wants to run as many plays as possible.

Thus, in a small twist of irony, Lacy is the player who could make it all work in Green Bay. His coach at Alabama is no fan of the no-huddle. Nick Saban famously said, “Is this what we want football to be?” It’s new to Lacy. While difficult at first, Lacy said that once he learned the signals and concepts, “you pick it up just like anybody else would pick it up.”

For him, the benefits will be softer front sevens. Aaron Rodgers could force the defense to use an extra defensive back, or two. And Lacy rarely had opportunities to barrel toward 185-pound cornerbacks at Alabama.

“If the tempo is dictated like that it’ll be in favor of us, obviously,” Lacy said. “But it’ll make us two-dimensional and that’s hard for any defense to stop, especially in a no-huddle situation.”

Said Dietrich-Smith, “It comes down to us running plays and getting clean plays ran and going out there and just playing fast. Not going out there and trying to make a bunch of adjustments. Just get into good plays and go.”

Again, it’s a theory. Maybe Lacy is the guy who ignites the hurry-up.

The offensive linemen in Green Bay are the first to tell you that it doesn’t matter if the Packers have Eddie Lacy or Eddie Haskell running the football if they’re not opening holes. Problems abound against San Francisco last season. In the opener, Cedric Benson missed holes and the line was driven back through only 18 yards on 9 attempts.

In the playoffs, DuJuan Harris wasn’t bad—53 yards on 11 attempts—but Mike McCarthy reverted to all-pass mode once San Francisco got the lead in the second half.

True, Lacy is only part of the running game. Escaping a three-year lull takes more than one player.

“It doesn’t matter who’s back there,” left guard Josh Sitton said. “It’s something we’ll see. We all think Eddie’s a great running back. We all hope. But it doesn’t matter who’s back there. It’s up to us up front and up to Mike to commit to the run.”

Other offenses featuring downhill backs like Lacy did flip the script on the 49ers last season. In a 42-13 wipeout of San Francisco, Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch rushed 26 times for 111 yards and a touchdown. That game, the Seahawks ran the ball 64 percent of the time. In a 24-24 tie, St. Louis’ Steven Jackson pounded away 29 times for 101 yards and a touchdown.

Both backs, at different points, could have been obtained by Packers general manager Ted Thompson, Lynch in 2010 and Jackson this off-season. In the younger Lacy, the Packers hope they have a running back who can feed such a commitment. The broken tackles at St. Louis were a good sign. Against San Francisco, such a bruiser is a necessity.

NFC supremacy could very well boil down to this: When the 49ers punch, the Seahawks punch, the Packers need to punch back.

The plan is for Lacy to throw the haymakers. The nation saw him rip through the SEC. Defensive tackle Mike Daniels still remembers watching Lacy in college and friends asking him, “Man, what if you picked up that Lacy kid?”

“A couple of us even said, ‘That Lacy is a big, tough, powerful back,’” Daniels said. “You saw him in the preseason. So it’s good. It’s good to have a bruiser back there.”

So they think. So they hope. The preseason was still the experimentation phase.

Lacy didn’t see that playoff loss to San Francisco in real time, but he has watched it on film. He has visualized himself in the backfield.

“You go through ‘What would do you here? What would you look at there?’ and things like that,” Lacy said. “But it’s a lot different and faster when you’re on the field vs. just watching film.”

On Sunday, the Packers begin to find out if Lacy is the player they’ve lacked in the backfield.



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