GREEN BAY, Wis. — With the way that Eddie Lacy has been producing recently as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, it got Aaron Rodgers thinking back to his childhood and the versatility of the running back for his favorite team.
In the late 1980s, Rodgers watched Roger Craig be nearly as productive with receiving yards as the four-time Pro Bowl selection was with rushing yards. In Craig’s eight seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, nearly 40 percent of his 11,506 total yards came in the passing game.
Well, over the past two games, Lacy has had significantly more receiving yards than rushing yards. Combining the Green Bay Packers’ loss at New Orleans and home win over Chicago, Lacy has 191 receiving yards and 109 rushing yards.
With those type of receiving numbers, Lacy could one day find himself in very exclusive company.
"Roger kind of redefined the position as a pass catcher with a 1,000-yard season catching it and running, which is incredible," Rodgers said. "I was teasing Eddie about it after last week that he had the potential to be a 1,000-1,000 guy. He’s such a talented guy. He can do so many things for us. If he’s not running it real effectively, he can still show up in the pass game and get yards for us and get touchdowns."
There are only two players in NFL history who have had 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season: Craig (1985) and Marshall Faulk (1999).
It’s too late in this season for Lacy to get close to 1,000 receiving yards. In the Packers’ first seven games, he totaled only 86 receiving yards. But if what Lacy has done recently is a sign of things to come in upcoming years, it could be a realistic possibility for him.
"I’m a bigger back, so you wouldn’t expect a 1,000-yard receiving season from me, I guess," Lacy told FOXSportsWisconsin.com. "But when you have a quarterback like A-Rod, it doesn’t matter what kind of back you are. It’s just all about being where you’re supposed to be and maximizing your opportunities.
"We pass the ball a lot here, so if we have a checkdown or if it’s a screen or whatever it is, if you’re where you’re supposed to be and he gets you the ball and you’re getting 10, 20, 30 yards every time, it might just end up being 1,000. Or close to it."
Lacy talked this past training camp that he was starting to develop "Moss hands." As in Randy Moss, a wide receiver who had 15,292 receiving yards in his career.
Lacy’s "Moss hands" didn’t show themselves in the first 22 games of his career. He only had 257 receiving yards during the 2013 season that ended in him being named the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. But those early-career numbers had less to do with Lacy’s skill set and more to do with the ball just not being thrown his way.
"He didn’t get a lot of opportunities last year," Rodgers said of Lacy. "He’s got great hands. He does some good things with the ball after he catches it."
Lacy has been a running back since he was six years old. It’s the only position he ever played in football. So he’s had his fair share of screen-pass catches over the years. In college at Alabama, though, it wasn’t something he did often.
"We were more of a power offense," Lacy said. "I was running downhill for the most part."
But since the first practices in training camp earlier this season, it was obvious that Lacy made a commitment to living up to his own "Moss hands" billing. He worked with new running backs coach Sam Gash every day on catching passes. Throw after throw, Gash fired the ball at Lacy. Not once in the hundreds of passes along the sideline from Gash did Lacy drop it.
"I could always catch the ball, but practicing definitely helps out," Lacy said. "We did a lot of catching in the offseason even before we actually knew we were going to be throwing the ball to us a lot, but it’s just polishing and just being ready."
Lacy gave credit to Gash for initiating those extra catching sessions.
"It’s better than just standing there and watching," Lacy said. "You work on catching the ball."
As for the recent success Lacy’s had in turning screen passes into long gains (first for 67 yards in New Orleans and then a 56-yard touchdown against Chicago), he deflected the praise away from himself on that, too.
"I think it’s play-calling," Lacy said. "We called them at the right moments. Our offensive line did a great job of shedding their blocks and getting up field. Our wideouts did a great job of running downfield and finishing blocks. It just timed out perfect."
Still, with Lacy’s recently-discovered versatility, the numbers don’t lie. If he can ever repeat his level of success on the ground from his rookie season (when he rushed for 1,178 yards) while producing the 65-plus yards through the air that he has in the past two games, Lacy would be on track to join Craig and Faulk on that short list of dual-threat running backs.
"I feel like I can do whatever is asked of me," Lacy said. "I wouldn’t say I could split out at wideout and run a route or nothing like that. But definitely screen pass, checkdowns in our little checkdown routes, I can definitely do that and make the first guy miss and just get as many yards as I can get."