Two Super Bowl contenders could be leaning on rookie running backs heavily this season.
Eddie Lacy finds himself the leading candidate to start for the Green Bay Packers, following his own impressive preseason and with the news that DuJuan Harris might be doubtful for the opener against the 49ers.
McCarthy: DuJuan Harris getting a second opinion. ...Not sure on opener. The norm in this situations.
— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) August 26, 2013
Meanwhile, in Denver, Montee Ball is working with the first team in practice with Ronnie Hillman seemingly fumbling away his chance at starting.
Both Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and Broncos head coach John Fox are notorious for warning the media not to read too much into those situations. But it has become clear that the two rookies, at worst, will be heavily leaned on in the early parts of the season.
Lacy has been a sight for sore eyes in Green Bay, as the Packers have not had a 100-yard rusher in 43 straight games and have not had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2009, when Ryan Grant accomplished that feat. Although Lacy did nothing in the third preseason game against Seattle (eight carries for minus-5 yards with the second-team offense), his performance up to that point and Harris' health have vaulted him up the depth chart.
Ball was not special in the Broncos' game against the Rams but did muscle his way into the end zone impressively once Peyton Manning exited the game this weekend. And perhaps more importantly, Ball has held onto the rock. Whether or not his pass-protection skills can be honed is another issue, which might limit his role. But carrying the ball shouldn't be a problem.
"He's a guy that we want to get some touches, so we'll go from there," Fox said.
Really, this rookie class has opened more eyes than expected. Despite no back going in Round One, and even with presumed Steelers starter Le'Veon Bell out for a spell with injury in Pittsburgh, there should be a fair amount of early contributors. Giovani Bernard is expected to be in the mix with BenJarvus Green-Ellis in Cincinnati, and Christine Michael (Seattle) and Knile Davis (Kansas City) have received extended reps behind star backs Marshawn Lynch and Jamaal Charles, respectively.