Packers position preview: Running backs

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Between now and the Green Bay Packers' first training camp practice on July 26, we will break down each position group.

Next up is running back.

Returning players: Eddie Lacy, James Starks, DuJuan Harris, Michael Hill, John Kuhn.

Gone from last season: Johnathan Franklin, Kahlil Bell.

New this season: Ina Liaina (street free agent), Rajion Neal (undrafted rookie from Tennessee), LaDarius Perkins (undrafted rookie from Mississippi State).

Position coach: Sam Gash (first season), replaced Alex Van Pelt (who became quarterbacks coach).

Biggest issue: Lacy set the Packers' record for rushing yards by a rookie (1,178) on the way to winning offensive rookie of the year honors and in the process became one of the most promising running backs in the NFL. But with a year's worth of film on Lacy, teams will be better prepared for the Packers' running game this time around. How does Lacy counter that? For starters, the Packers would like to keep him on the field longer. That does not necessarily mean more plays or more carries in total. However, coach Mike McCarthy wants Lacy to be able to stay on the field for all three downs in order to prevent substitutions from slowing down the offense. That means Lacy will have to perfect his pass blocking skills. It also could mean more opportunities to catch the ball coming out of the backfield.

Player to watch: The small and speedy Harris was supposed to team with Lacy to give the Packers a different look out of the backfield, but a knee injury ended Harris' season in August. Harris was a full participant in the offseason program and will get the chance to compete with Starks for the top backup job.

Medical report: The Packers had high hopes for Franklin, who flashed some ability with a 103-yard performance last season against the Cincinnati Bengals, but the neck injury he sustained late last season turned out to be career-ending. He was released last month after doctors determined it would be unsafe for him to keep playing.

Help wanted: If five running backs make the roster, it means there's at least one spot that is wide open behind Lacy, Starks, Harris and Kuhn. Hill had two different stints on the practice squad last season sandwiched around two weeks on the active roster before finishing the season with the Buccaneers and re-signing with the Packers in the offseason. Neal and Perkins are both slashing backs similar Harris. Liaina would give the Packers a younger option at fullback but there/s no indication Kuhn's job is in jeopardy.

Quotable: "We haven't sat down and figured out 'X' number of carries for Eddie," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. "We want to get him touches, trying to get him more involved in all aspects of the game, but Eddie was a workhorse for us last year. And then when James got in there last year, he ran very hard. That was a great one-two punch. Now you factor in DuJuan and the other guys, it's going to be interesting to see how that plays out."

Previous installments

Monday: Quarterbacks