Tuesday, August 27, 2013

DuJuan Harris headed to IR

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy announced Tuesday that running back DuJuan Harris would be placed on the injured reserve list, likely ending his season. Harris injured his knee during the second day of organized team activities, and then further injured the patellar tendon in a preseason game against Seattle this past Friday.

Harris latched on with the Packers in 2012 after stops in both Pittsburgh and Jacksonville, rushing for 157 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries over four games. He figured to factor heavily into Green Bay's backfield rotation, with McCarthy going as far as to name Harris the starter during the preseason.

His absence will leave the running back workload spread out over the likes of Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, Alex Green and James Starks. The Packers could choose to use  IR/Designated to Return on Harris, which would allow him to return after Week 6, but that announcement had not been made. The Packers don't need this quartet to emerge as a powerhouse, but simply a competent, respectable alternative to the passing game that can excel at blitz pickup and help prevent Aaron Rodgers from getting killed.

Eddie Lacy, the rookie second-round pick out of Alabama, will presumably be the de facto starter for the Packers come Week 1. Lacy averaged 6.5 yards per carry in his 1,322-yard  campaign last season at Alabama, but the stakes will be higher for him in Green Bay. At 5-11, 231 pounds, Lacy will be asked to not only tote the ball but will be invaluable in pass protection for the Packers, who enter the season with a shaky-at-best offensive line. If that line can open a hole for Lacy, he's got the strength and power to hit it with authority, and the Packers will need that balance if they want to make a playoff run in December and January.

By almost every account, rookie fourth-rounder Johnathan Franklin has struggled to meet expectations this preseason. Considered by many a steal in the fourth round, Franklin has rushed for just 23 yards this preseason on nine carries, with a long of four yards. Franklin amassed 2,057 yards rushing and receiving in his senior season at UCLA, but he won't get the volume of carries with the Packers to make the same impact. He will need to make the most of his touches and bust off a few big plays if he wants to continue to see playing time.

Alex Green saw action in 12 games last year for the Packers after being limited in his 2011 rookie campaign with an injury. His 464 rushing yards last season were tops on the squad, but Green still seems to be the forgotten man of sorts in the Green Bay backfield this preseason. He has had one of the few big plays for the Packers in the exhibition schedule to date, taking a toss 31 yards up the left sideline to convert a 2nd & 16 play midway through the fourth quarter on Friday night against Seattle.

In just his fourth season, James Starks is the de facto veteran in the Green Bay rushing attack. He missed most of 2012 with a knee injury after leading the Packers with 578 yards rushing in 2011. His name has been thrown around in trade speculation before Harris' injury, but it seems likely that he will stick around with Green Bay, at least for now.

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