I’m not suggesting Green Bay Packers running back [intlink id=”1038″ type=”category”]James Starks[/intlink] is going to turn into the [intlink id=”275″ type=”category”]Houston Texans[/intlink] Arian Foster next season, but this is a comparison of two opposites.
I chose Foster, the NFL’s leading rusher in 2010, and Smith, who rushed for a record 204 yards in Super Bowl XXII as a member of the Washington Redskins, because they both came out of nowhere, much like Starks.
Foster started his pro career slowly, going undrafted out of Tennessee and spending most of his first NFL season on the Texans’ practice squad. He burst onto the scene in week one of the 2010 season, when he gashed the [intlink id=”196″ type=”category”]Indianapolis Colts[/intlink] for 231 yards and three touchdowns and he finished the season with 1,616 yards.
Smith, on the other hand, started quickly and then completely dropped off the map. As a rookie fifth-round pick, Smith killed the [intlink id=”27″ type=”category”]Denver Broncos[/intlink] in Super Bowl XXII. Unfortunately, those 204 yards would equal about one-third of his total career yards. Smith played only three NFL seasons, gaining 602 yards and averaging 3.2 yards per carry.
So here comes James Starks, a rookie sixth-round pick who helps carry the Packers to their fourth Super Bowl title. Starks was on the physically unable to perform list to start the season and played in only three regular season games, gaining 101 yards on 29 carries.
Then the playoffs came around and the Packers decided to use Starks as their featured back. In four games, he gained 315 yards and averaged 3.9 yards per carry. The two most impressive stats are the 123-yard performance against the [intlink id=”374″ type=”category”]Philadelphia Eagles[/intlink] and his 4.7 yards per carry average against the vaunted [intlink id=”386″ type=”category”]Pittsburgh Steelers[/intlink] defense.
Was this a Timmy Smith aberration or the beginning of something special like, say, the start of Arian Foster’s career?
It remains to be seen.
Smith’s career was largely derailed by injuries, so if Starks stays healthy he has the opportunity to be something special.
However, the Packers have another decent running back returning next season in [intlink id=”64″ type=”category”]Ryan Grant[/intlink], who spent all but one game on injured reserve in 2010. It’s entirely conceivable Grant could beat Starks for the No. 1 job or the Packers could go to a backfield by committee.
Neither situation bodes well for Starks turning into Arian Foster.
The situation does bode well for the Green Bay Packers, though. They haven’t had a backfield this loaded since Edgar Bennett and [intlink id=”293″ type=”category”]Dorsey Levens[/intlink].