GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When Eddie Lacy saw the practice rundown for Tuesday morning, he knew it would be his chance to show off his game.
After an uneventful first three practices of training camp for the Green Bay Packers rookie running back followed by an off day in which an unflattering photo that showed him looking overweight went viral, Lacy for the first time showed why the Packers invested so much in him.
With a practice heavy on red zone drills, Lacy had a breakout performance. Though it was not live tackling to the ground, there was enough contact in full pads to see all the power and force behind the 5-foot-11, 230-pounder (or so he’s listed).
On four red zone carries, he appeared to score touchdowns from the 11-, 5-, and 3-yard lines, although without live tackling it’s impossible to say whether all three were definite scores. On a fourth carry, he turned what looked like a sure 2- or 3-yard loss into a 2- or 3-yard gain by using the spin move he often employed in college at Alabama to avoid a defender.
“Today I feel like it was my best day since I’ve been out here,” Lacy said after practice. “I was comfortable with everyone, and I feel like I ran smooth and made good reads, and I just hit the hole the way I was supposed to.”
It was fitting then that on the day Lacy had to answer questions about his weight because of that unflattering photo that appeared to catch him in an awkward position -- for the record, he wouldn’t say exactly how much he weighed -- his power was on display for the first time as a pro.
“I’ve always been big; I’m a power back,” Lacy said. “I pretty much get the tough yards, and I’m fast enough to get around the outside and make big plays, so I don’t have a problem in that aspect of the game.”
Packers general manager Ted Thompson drafted Lacy at No. 61 overall (and later took UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin in the fourth round) in an effort to boost a running game that ranked 20th in the NFL last season in rushing yards per game and 22nd in rushing average.
Often times last season, opponents sat in a two-shell defense, in which both safeties played away from the line of scrimmage, to prevent quarterback Aaron Rodgers from beating them deep. With teams daring them to run, the Packers still proved ineffective.
They also struggled in short-yardage situations. Last season, the Packers converted 61.1 percent of their third-and-1 rushes, down from 70 percent in 2011 and 2010 and 90 percent in 2009.
Tuesday also was a good day for the Packers’ other big back, James Starks (6-2, 218). Like Lacy, Starks produced some strong red zone runs, including a 15-yard touchdown in which he ran over safety M.D. Jennings at the goal line.
“Eddie Lacy definitely falls into the category of a big back and big backs fall forward,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “You’re seeing Eddie, and you’re seeing James do a better job. I thought James had probably one of his better days today. You obviously coach all your backs to try to do that, but that’s definitely the benefit of big backs.”