Cedric Benson amped up his game last week against the Chicago Bears. Joe VanDeLaarschot photograph

Benson a Gift Packers Will Learn How to Use

He just dropped into their laps.

Cedric Benson, a 1,000-plus-yard runner for the last three seasons was a very late training camp gift for Mike McCarthy and the Packers’ offense. Facilitated mainly, we can assume, by the (inevitable) injury suffered by fellow running back James Starks, the Benson signing shocked everyone, and if the last two games are any indication, the Packers’ offensive architects.

Suddenly, all of the talk around the Packers offense has morphed from a high-tempo no-huddle offense directed by Aaron Rodgers to people asking things like “when was the last time a Packers running back lined up seven yards from scrimmage?”

The Packers want to take advantage of what Benson brings to their offense, but it is going to take a while to mesh two distinct philosophies of offense. Each side will be uncomfortable for at least the first half of the season – the offense has to adjust to the type of running that Benson does (more traditional, less one-back) while Benson needs to be more at ease being that lone back in the shotgun with Rodgers right next to him.

Against the Bears, the Packers did something they couldn’t do last season – run for four plays in a row. Benson did this regularly for the Bengals last season.

A big part of the Packers passing game last season was play-action. This year, the play-action, especially the huge play to usually Jordy Nelson, hasn’t been there yet, but with defensive coordinators looking at the threat of Benson, hopefully a safety or two will drop to the box to respect Benson.

Not the End All, Be All
Benson certainly is a plus to this offense – a dimension they didn’t have last year. But I think what the Packers really needed last year was big running back like LaGarrette Blount (remember what he did to the Packers?) who can grind out yards and move the pile at the end of games to pick up that crucial first down that keeps the defense on the sidelines.

The Ideal Situation
This week marks the first week of practice for James Starks since he went down at Green Bay’s second exhibition game.

Realistically he’ll be back for the New Orleans game at Lambeau Field. Last year he ran 12 times for 47 yards and a touchdown.

This time, if back, he’ll be paired with Benson and most likely will be made the third down back, because Benson has a tendency to put the ball on the ground (why ask him to catch the ball and hold on).

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