Eddie Lacy impressive despite small sample size
ST. LOUIS—It was only three series in an exhibition game. Just eight carries and one pass reception in 19 minutes of work.
Brief snapshot or not, running back Eddie Lacy's presence loomed large on the offense of the Green Bay Packers and the defense of the St. Louis Rams on Saturday night before a crowd of about 40,000 at 66,000-seat Edward Jones Dome.
“I've not seen a running back like that in Green Bay since Ahman Green,” an executive in personnel for a National Football League team said. “It's a scrimmage, but he looked good. He did what I thought he could do.”
Putting together a much stronger overall effort than in their opening shutout loss to Arizona, the Packers evened their record at 1-1 with a 19-7 victory.
After sitting out against the Cardinals with a hamstring injury, Lacy was in and out all week during practice before getting the green light from coach Mike McCarthy.
On the ground, Lacy carried eight times for 40 yards and had another 7-yard run called back by penalty.
He also caught a swing pass in the right flat, made nickel back Trumaine Johnson miss with a beautiful spin move and picked up 11.
Then, when Aaron Rodgers and the No. 1 offense departed, so did Lacy.
Another scout agreed that Lacy gave the Packers their best back since Green, and that included Ryan Grant, who surpassed 950 yards in three straight seasons (2007-'09). In 2010, the Packers reached the playoffs with Brandon Jackson and won the Super Bowl with James Starks.
“I'd say so,” the personnel man said. “He's a talented back. Mike will give him a lot of opportunities to be successful.”
Lacy made a tackler miss on the right side to gain 7 on his first attempt. Then he ran over rookie safety T.J. McDonald and barged past another tackler on a 15-yard carry.
“He showed the ability to make you miss in the open field and the strength and power to power through you,” one scout said. “Elusive in the open field. Made people miss. Good burst.”
Lacy, a late second-round draft choice, pounded off right guard for a pair of 2-yard gains, then showed speed to the corner for 7 on third and 1. That play was brought back when tight end Jermichael Finley was penalized for holding.
On the Packers' second possession, Lacy was victimized by poor blocking and suffered a 2-yard loss on third and 1.
Early in the second quarter, Lacy pounded for 3 off left tackle, made the great move in the flat on Johnson and finished by showing some shake and bake in the clear on the left side for 11.
“They got a steal getting him where they got him,” one scout said. “I thought he was going to go earlier. He's as advertised.”
McCarthy didn't emphasize the running game as much as he did against the Cardinals. With Rodgers zipping the ball around for 10 completions in 12 attempts, McCarthy found the exact balance he has been seeking.
“He'll make Aaron better,” one of the executives said. “The slants will be open.”
The Rams, with a brawny, top-shelf defensive line, had all 11 starters on the field when Lacy was doing his damage.
On the other hand, the Packers played without two of their top three wide receivers, Jordy Nelson (knee) and Randall Cobb (biceps).
“Jordy Nelson is just a solid performer,” one scout said. “Cobb will be back. Finley.
“It's one of the most talented offenses in the league. All they have to do is protect him (Rodgers). They'll have to have him get the ball out of his hand because of that (the offensive line).”
Meanwhile, Finley had a tremendous first half, catching four passes for 78 yards.
“They didn't have the receivers tonight so they took advantage of the tight end,” one scout said. “Looked like he (Finley) bulked up. You could tell in the running game. He's running as well as I've seen him.”
Finley gained 11 yards on a game-opening bootleg, making safety Darian Stewart miss in the left flat.
A play later, Finley broke loose against zone coverage for a 25-yard completion, which led to Mason Crosby's 34-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
On the next series, Rodgers found Finley for 9 on a quick out before he missed Finley, who was open at the 10 for a possible touchdown on a seam route.
After Finley missed a block against defensive end Robert Quinn and Lacy gained only 2, the value of Lacy was obvious on a second-and-8 play.
From shotgun formation, Rodgers made a fine run fake to Lacy, straightened up and popped the ball to Finley about 8 yards downfield. Again, Finley sprinted diagonally through the secondary and the gain this time was 33.
It set up another field goal by Crosby, this one of 48 yards.
Rodgers completed 10 of 12 passes for 134 yards. His passer rating of 113.2 was in keeping with his rating of 127.9 in three regular-season games (all victories) against St. Louis.
Watching Rodgers, according to one scout, provides a different dimension than many other games that he has watched this summer.
“He picks guys apart and can be so accurate,” the scout said. “I'm sure they'd have liked him to complete the one in the red zone.”
As impressive as Lacy was, the Packers' improvement on defense was as notable.
Behind quarterback Sam Bradford, the Rams drove 46 yards on their first possession. On fourth and 5 from the 38, Morgan Burnett tackled rookie Tavon Austin after a gain of 3.
Bradford began his second series with a 57-yard bomb to speedy Chris Givens, who got behind Micah Hyde. But the Packers turned the Rams away on four downs from the 3.
Austin was wide open on first down against Hyde from the 3, but Bradford threw a bad ball. Hyde made a solid tackle to stop Austin after a 1-yard catch.
Isaiah Pead was held to a 1-yard gain when B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews made the tackle. Then Bradford bobbled the center exchange and the Packers converged on him.