It was a rough year for the Green Bay Packers, with lots of ups-and-downs, injuries and inconsistencies. Despite all the misery plaguing the team, one man stood out: Eddie Lacy. A rookie out of then-BCS-National-Champion Alabama, Lacy kept the Packers afloat this season and helped the team rebound to capture the NFC North title in dramatic fashion. Below are five reasons why Lacy deserves the title of (Pepsi) NFL Rookie of the Year:
1. He’s already Rookie of the Year
Well, sort of. Lacy received the title from the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) Jan. 14. It’s a weighted title for Lacy, since this is the first year the PFWA has selected an overall Rookie of the Year in addition to an offensive rookie and a defensive rookie. The fact that Lacy was chosen as the overall rookie, instead of for just the offense, really shows his worth.
And the PFWA has a solid track record of selecting a rookie who would go on to win the NFL title. With the PFWA’s two chances to pick a rookie each year (one for offense, one for defense), seven of its 11 selections ended up matching the NFL’s decision of Rookie of the Year – the NFL title has been around since only 2002. If Lacy wins the NFL title along with a PFWA honor, he’ll join players like Cam Newton, Ndamukong Suh, Percy Harvin, Adrian Peterson, Vince Young, Cadillac Williams and Ben Roethlisburger, who can say the same.
2. A record-breaking season
Lacy put up strong numbers to support the case for Rookie of the Year. He finished the regular season with 1,178 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, which was top among all NFL rookies and franchise rookie records. He also produced four 100-yard rushing games, which tied for the most among NFL rookies and tied for fifth among all players. His 11 rushing touchdowns was third overall in the league. Lacy was named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Month in October and the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Week after the comeback in Dallas, where he rushed for 141 yards.
3. Bringing the run back to Titletown
For the past two decades, the Packers have been known for throwing the ball. With beloved quarterbacks Brett Farve and Aaron Rodgers holding all franchise records ( Matt Flynn tied Rodgers for a couple), it’s safe to say modern Green Bay has focused on having the ball in the air more than on the ground.
Besides a couple of good seasons during the Farve/Rodgers era from Ahman Green, the running game wasn’t a huge factor for the Packers. The team could lean on all-star quarterbacks to create victories. But once Rodgers went down this season and the backup quarterbacks struggled, Lacy needed to step up. And he did just that. Coach Mike McCarthy let Lacy have the ball before Rodgers’ Week 7 injury, but #27 really picked up his game after that. He scored at least one touchdown in every game except two and averaged 3.8 yards per carry in the games following Rodgers’ injury.
With Lacy’s record-breaking rookie season and the way he adapted to Rodgers’ injury, Green Bay’s run game will only improve as the years go on.
4. “Workhorse” mentality
One of the most accurate nicknames sportscasters donned Lacy this season was “workhorse.” And Lacy was.
As a rookie, it’s impressive how strong and fast Lacy is. But he mostly deserves his nickname by how he can turn negative plays into positive yardage and how he kept working after initial contact to produce big plays. Since Lacy returned from his Week 2 concussion, he lead the league in rushing yards after contact (441). The Packers managed the fourth fewest in the league last season with an average of 1.4 yards after contact per rush.
Lacy was also a factor on third downs and fourth downs. When he was on the field, Green Bay converted 50 percent (41-of-82) of their third downs and 100 percent (five-of-five) of their fourth downs, compared to 29 percent (26-of-89) for third downs and 20 percent (one-of-five) for fourth downs without him.
5. Top of the class
Lacy is up against some strong competition for NFL Rookie of the Year, but after breaking it all down, he has a strong chance of winning the title. He’s up against three other offensive players in San Diego’s Keenan Allen, Cinnci’s Giovani Bernard and Minnesota’s Cordarrelle Patterson and defensive player Kiko Alonso from Buffalo. Lacy will be most compared to Bernard, the other running back up for the title. Bernard helped his team to the playoffs, where the Bengals had a perfect 8-0 record at home. He was nominated for NFL Rookie of the Week twice this season and won once. But compared to Bernard, Lacy had more rushing yards, carries and touchdowns. Allen, Patterson and Alonso each excelled in their positions, but Lacy’s heart, determination and stats gives him a strong case – plus, he already has the PFWA title under his belt.
With the NFL Rookie of the Year title based on fan votes, Lacy has a good chance to win with the Packer Backers on his side. Even for those fans who aren’t partial to Green Bay, Lacy demonstrated this season why he should be Rookie of the Year.
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