On the Outside Looking In
It feels nice to finally say that I am pleased with the running back situation in Green Bay. With the top four backs healthy (fingers crossed) in Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Jonathan Franklin and DuJuan Harris, it seems like the spots on the final roster are set. But those aren't the only backs on the current, 90-man roster. There are still three other backs working their tails off to make the "Final 53." Let's meet them, shall we?
After this year's draft, the Packers picked up undrafted running back Rajion Neal out of Tennessee. His pre-draft scouting report compared him to Washington's Alfred Morris based on his size (5'11", 211 pounds) and ability to lower his shoulder and finish runs. The report also called him 'versatile' based on his history of playing receiver, tailback and some Wildcat quarterback during his time as a Volunteer.
But they also observed that he was not very elusive, did not snow breakaway speed, and was prone to fumble the ball. However, Green Bay Press-Gazette writer Mike Vandermause tweeted that Neal looked "fast and smooth" at rookie mini-camp back in May. He may put up a fight in training camp this summer, but he probably won't be making the final roster...unless one of the top four gets injured.
Mississippi State running back LeDarius Perkins was also snatched up by the Packers following the draft. In college, the 5'8", 189-pound rusher showed acceleration along with good field vision, and ran for over 1,000 yards in his junior season, earning All-SEC honors.
But he proved virtually worthless in pass protection, and seemed to be hesitant in short-yardage or goal-line situations when choosing where to run. Overall, Perkins seems like a well-rounded player who may squeak on the roster if he can prove himself worthy of special teams, but he will most likely not make the final cut.
Second year running back Michael Hill has also found his way back to the Packers. Hill found himself on the 53-man roster after Week 3 last year when Eddie Lacy and John Kuhn got injured. The team released him two weeks later, and then signed him back to the practice squad. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers snatched Hill off the practice squad back in September to fill in for the injured Doug Martin.
The Packers then resigned Hill back in February. After all that, it seems like the practice squad is where Hill will end up again this year. And if he happens to get brought up again for any reason, it will most likely be to help with special teams or be the last guy on the running back depth chart.
Even though these three running backs will most likely not see many - if any - meaningful snaps in the 2014 season, it's comforting to see that the Packers are doing a good job of establishing themselves as a team that can competently run the ball and shore up depth at the position in case the injury bug strikes (again, fingers crossed).