Packers counting on Eddie Lacy for 1,100 yards again

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Go ahead and mark down Eddie Lacy for another 1,100-yard rushing season.

It's been the standard for the Green Bay Packers running back in each of his first two NFL seasons, and his quarterback believes that can be the norm in Year 3 as well.

"I think it can be," Aaron Rodgers said during a recent interview. "In order to elongate his career, we're going to continue to keep him at that 20-touches-a-game mark. But he's been averaging over 4 [yards] a clip, and that's going to put him at that 1,100 to 1,200 yards for the year."

Since 2000, a total of 49 NFL running backs have put together two straight 1,100-yard seasons. That includes Lacy, LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray each of the past two seasons. Of the 46 backs who did it before them, exactly half followed it with a third straight 1,100-yard year. In that stretch, LaDainian Tomlinson accomplished the feat eight times.

Barry Sanders did it the most in NFL history with 10 straight 1,100-yard rushing seasons from 1989 to 1998.

If Lacy hits 1,100 yards for a third straight season, he will become the third back in Packers history to do so. Ahman Green did it five straight years (2000-04) and Jim Taylor three (1960-62).

"I don't think there's any reason why we shouldn't as long as we make a commitment to get a certain amount of runs," Lacy said. "With the threat of Aaron throwing the ball, it opens it up for us, and there's no reason we shouldn't."

As long as Rodgers is healthy, the Packers are going to be a pass-first team, so Lacy might have a hard time getting many games with more than 20 carries. Last year, he reached that mark just four times in 18 games (including playoffs). With 530 regular-season carries in 31 career games, Lacy averages 17.1 carries per game.

Lacy's first game with more than 17 carries last season came in Week 12.

That, however, often is by design.

"I think they do a good job of watching his rep count, especially early in the season," left guard Josh Sitton said. "He might not have gotten 15 carries in any of the first eight games."

Actually, it happened once, which explains why Lacy gained 711 of his 1,139 yards in the second half of last season.

"He's a beast, man," Sitton said. "It seems like the more carries he gets, the tougher he gets."

However, it could get tougher for Lacy. Rodgers noted that last season was the first time since 2011 that opposing defenses even dared to bring a safety into the box with any consistency, a sure sign that teams were almost as concerned with the running game as they were with Rodgers and the passing game.

"If we keep doing that and getting the one-on-one matchups [in the passing game]," Rodgers said, "we're going to be tough to stop."

The biggest question facing Lacy after two seasons is this: How long can he last in the NFL given his refusal to shy away from contact?

So far, Lacy has avoided major injury. He's had concussions in each of his first two seasons and a sprained ankle that hobbled him late in 2013, but he has missed only one full game.

If Lacy is confident he can post another 1,100-yard season, it could be because his entire offensive line -- the group that started together for 17 of the 18 games last season -- returns intact.