by Justis Mosqueda
One of the two arguments I keep getting myself involved in with fellow Packer fans is that DuJuan Harris won't make the 2013 roster. I may sound a little off by suggesting that the Packers best running back, hands down, of the 2012 season isn't a top four running back on the 2013 roster (returning two running backs from 2012), but hear me out.
At this point in training camp, James Starks and Alex Green have been taking the number one and two snaps. Green started off as the "starting" running back, while Starks has now taken the lead. The next two running backs on the depth chart are rookies Eddie Lacy, a second round pick, and Johnathan Franklin, who the Packers traded up in the forth for.
Where has DuJuan Harris been? At first, Harris was of camp out due to a surgical procedure to remove a cyst from his lung, but Tuesday, McCarthy said he's out "two to three weeks" with a knee injury. What all this means is Harris could possibly miss more than half of the preseason. That's not an idle situation to be in when two running backs are sliding up on the depth chart, while two relatively high draft-picks were added over the off-season.
Here's a deeper breakdown of the non-Harris, likely-to-make-the-roster Packers running backs:
The biggest knock on Starks is that he's injury-prone. After becoming a key piece of the Super Bowl team (coming off of PUP), he's either been out with an injury or played through one, showing lack-luster potential. While he doesn't contribute much to the pass catching game (he's a better blocker than Harris), he is taking first-team snaps.
Green started off camp taking first-team snaps, and he hasn't fallen much by taking snaps as the second running back. Green's biggest knock is vision. Much like Brandon Jackson before him, Green has all the talent needed to succeed in the Packers offense, but the zone blocking scheme relies on good eyes, which Green seems to lack. Green may not be the best option for an every down back, but he's by far the best forpassing situations. He's caught more passes per rush attempt than Starks or Harris at this point in their careers. He also is the best running back in pass protection (unless you count John Kuhn, the full back) on the team.
Eddie Lacy is projected by many to be the starter in 2013, but has yet to show "it" in camp. I wouldn't bet against him starting week one, though. Lacy's physicality may not show up much in practice, but will during games. Either way, Lacy is a lock to make the 2013 roster, and he likely contribute to first down, second down, and be the goal line back.
After slipping in the 2013 Draft, the Packers traded up to snatch up the former-Bruin. While Franklin has reportedly not done well in pass blocking drills, he does just about everything else. At UCLA he was just as much of a receiving threat as a running threat, making him a perfect fit for no-huddle offenses. After talking to some league sources, I came away surprised with how many of them said that if Giovanni Bernard hadn't been there for Cincinnati, they think Franklin would have been their pick in the second or third round.
While I think DuJuan Harris could make another NFL roster, I don't think the Packers have room for him this year. There's a reason he was a free agent mid-way through 2012: he doesn't do anything particularly well. He has effort, but with Starks moving up and Lacy added to the roster, there's no place for three first-and-second-down-only running backs. Green and Franklin are much better in pass situations than Harris, too. On a smaller note, it would cost slightly less to cut Harris, than any of the other four running backs. Historically, Ted Thompson, the Packers General Manager, has rarely had more than three or four running backs on the team, including only two for the opening of the 2010 season, the same season the Packers won the Super Bowl.
Harris's best bet might be taking the injured-reserve for 2013 and waiting for 2014, when James Starks and John Kuhn (a full back who sometimes comes in during pass situations) will likely be free agents, leaving the team with only Lacy, Green, and Franklin on the roster. In this situation, Harris and Lacy would be the only workhorse type running backs on the roster, and there would be less competition overall. It would not be over Thompson to slap an injured reserve designation on a player he doesn't want to lose, but can't keep on the roster.
Justis Mosqueda is a Journalism student who writes for OptimumScouting.com, DraftFalcons.com, Packers-Backer.blogspot.com, and cuts videos of NFL Draft prospects for DraftBreakdown.com
You can follow Justis on Twitter: Twitter.com/justismosqueda