But four carries in a game?
That has to be more than just about preservation.
One thing it’s not, coach Mike McCarthy insisted a day after Lacy’s surprisingly small role in Sunday’s 27-20 win over the San Diego Chargers, is an indication that the ankle injury the Pro Bowl running back sustained in Week 2 caused his weight to balloon.
“I don't see conditioning as an issue,” McCarthy said Monday.
But apparently Lacy’s ankle still is still an issue as the Packers head into their bye week even though he wasn’t listed on the injury report last week.
“Going back to just getting [Lacy] healthy, taking this week off and being able to get healthy, I think that’s the No. 1 thing," Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said. "He’s a little banged up right now, but I think once he comes back from the break he’ll probably feel a whole lot better and we’ll pick up where we left off.”
From a snaps standpoint, Lacy got only eight fewer plays than James Starks, who rushed for 112 yards on 10 carries and scored two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving). But Starks, who started the game because, according to a team source, the coaches "felt Starks would have a big game," touched the ball 11 times to Lacy’s six (four carries, two receptions).
Lacy’s fourth-quarter fumble against the Chargers didn’t help his cause, either. He touched the ball only once after that, but by then it was already clear Starks would be the lead back.
“We want to be a one-two punch,” McCarthy said, repeating the explanation he gave after the game. “At this point, I'm not really interested in running one of my running backs 20-25 times in a game. I don't think that's the best thing for us. Right now, it's not the best thing for them. The running back position is an extremely punishing position that can take a lot of hits. I think you have to be conscientious of that, and Eddie has a bruising running style.
“You look at the numbers early last year. I forget [which media member] had him in fantasy football [and] was beside himself every week because he wasn't getting enough carries, but it worked out at the end of the year pretty good.”
Lacy had 711 of his 1,139 yards in the second half of last season, when he averaged 17.6 carries per game and had three games with at least 21 carries. In the first eight games of last season, he averaged just 13.1 carries per game and never had more than 17 in any one game. Though six games this year, Starks is the Packers' leading rusher (286 to 260), and Lacy is on pace for just 693 yards. However, he's only 46 yards behind where he was through six games last season.
“It's really always been the mindset; this isn't really something new,” McCarthy said. “It's kind the way the numbers worked out. There's stretches last year we did this too. We didn't talk about it. Frankly, with James being out there on the first series was a product of the way he's playing. I thought he played extremely well in San Francisco and he's done some big things.”
Starks’ best previous game this season was a 95-yard performance on 20 carries, but it was in Week 2 against the Seahawks, not against the 49ers in Week 4, when he had only 28 yards on nine carries and three catches for 29 yards.
What’s more, at no point last season did Starks ever have a game with more carries than Lacy. For the season, Lacy carried 246 times and Starks 85. This year, Lacy has 67 carries to Starks' 63, although Lacy missed a good part of the Week 2 game when he sprained his ankle.
Perhaps it is a health issue. Starks had no known injuries, while Lacy has been described as “a little banged up.”
“Eddie is pretty much like our whole football team,” McCarthy said. “He's beat up. This week will help him.”