Packers Annual Checkup: RB James Starks

Today is the 46th day of FOX Sports Wisconsin Packers writer Paul Imig’s offseason evaluations of every player on Green Bay’s roster. Click here for all of Paul’s previous evaluations and come back every day through mid-March for Paul’s in-depth film and statistical analysis. Coming up soon:

Friday, March 15: TE Ryan Taylor
Saturday, March 16: G Greg Van Roten
Sunday, March 17: TE D.J. Williams
Monday, March 18: CB Tramon Williams
Tuesday, March 19: DL C.J. Wilson
Wednesday, March 20: DL Jerel Worthy


Season stats: six games (all regular season); 71 rushing attempts, 255 yards (3.6 average), one rushing touchdown, one fumble; four receptions, 31 yards; two QB hurries allowed
Best game: Week 11 win at Detroit (25 carries, 74 rushing yards, 3.0 average; one reception for six yards; season-high 1.1 PFF rating)
Worst game: Week 9 win over Arizona (17 carries, 61 yards, 3.6 average; one fumble; two QB hurries allowed; season-worst minus-2.9 PFF rating) season rating: minus-3.8 (No. 20 out of 24 among Packers offensive players; worst among Packers running backs)
Expectations at the start of the season: Medium

Expectations were … Not Met
Looking live: Starks entered training camp as the Packers’ No. 1 running back. Alex Green was still limited at the time as he recovered from the knee injury he suffered in the 2011 season and Cedric Benson was still a free agent. That shows how much Green Bay’s front office and coaching staff believed in Starks. There was good reason to think this was going to be Starks’ year. When healthy in 2011, Starks was the Packers’ best running back. But, as has been all too frequent in Starks’ three seasons in the NFL, injuries once again kept him from reaching his potential in 2012. His turf toe injury in preseason is what led Green Bay to sign Benson. Starks didn’t get back on the field until Week 6, and even then (with Benson now out with his own injury) he wasn’t getting the ball often. Starks eventually got a shot at being the Packers’ featured running back for three games (Weeks 9, 11 and 13), but a knee injury ended that on Dec. 2. Starks did not play the rest of the season after that, including the playoffs.
Upon further review: Starks is a solid overall player who likely would have had a productive season as Green Bay’s No. 1 running back had he stayed healthy. Of course, that’s been the story with Starks all along. It’s unfortunate for him, but for whatever reason, Starks has consistently proven to be injury-prone. In Week 9, his first start this season, Starks was running fairly well, but then he fumbled. After being pulled from the game for several drives, the coaching staff put Starks back on the field (with the outcome against Arizona not in much doubt) to try to boost his confidence and show him that one bad play wasn’t going to change everything. But, over the next three games, though he hung onto the ball, Starks wasn’t running with the same physicality that he did late in the 2010 season. It was at that time that Starks helped the Packers win the Super Bowl and looked like Green Bay had its running back of the present and future. After another disappointing season, it’s difficult to tell what Starks’ future looks like now.
Overall 2012 grade: C-minus
Status for 2013: 80 percent chance of being on the Packers’ Week 1 active roster. Starks has one year left on his contract and will be a free agent after the 2013 season. Green Bay has lacked a star running back in recent years, but the team now has decent depth at that position with Green and DuJuan Harris. Plus, it’s possible the Packers could re-sign Benson, sign a different free agent running back or use a high draft pick to bring in a player like Eddie Lacy or Montee Ball. Unlike 2012, Starks certainly won’t walk into training camp in 2013 as the presumed starter. He’ll have to work hard (and stay healthy) just to make the team. But, unless the Packers are ready to give up on him because of frequent injuries, Starks’ talent should allow him to stick around the active roster for at least one more year.

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