Packers Annual Checkup: RB Cedric Benson
JAN 28, 2013 9:54p ET
Monday: OT Don Barclay
Today: RB Cedric Benson
Wednesday, Jan. 30: ILB Desmond Bishop
Thursday, Jan. 31: WR Jarrett Boykin
Friday, Feb. 1: OT Bryan Bulaga
Saturday, Feb. 2: S Morgan Burnett
Sunday, Feb. 3: CB Jarrett Bush
Monday, Feb. 4: WR Randall Cobb
CEDRIC BENSON, RUNNING BACK
Season stats: Five starts, 71 rushing attempts, 248 yards (3.5 average), one rushing touchdown; 14 receptions, 97 yards; one fumble
Best game: Week 2 win over the Chicago Bears (20 carries, 81 rushing yards; four catches, 35 receiving yards; 3.0 PFF rating)
Worst game: Week 3 loss at Seattle (17 carries, 45 yards; four catches, 19 yards; one fumble; minus-2.0 PFF rating)
ProFootballFocus.com season rating: 0.3 (No. 66 out of 144 among NFL running backs this season; second-best rating among the five Packers running backs)
Expectations at the start of the season: Medium
Expectations were ... Met
Looking live: Benson signed with the Packers on Aug. 12, three days after projected starter James Starks suffered a turf toe injury in the first preseason game. He immediately became Green Bay's new starting running back and brought with him the presence of a player teams around the NFL looked at as somewhat of a threat. Benson was way behind the rest of his Packers teammates in understanding the offensive schemes, but he quickly got on the good side of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy by sitting in the front of the room for meetings and actively searching for ways to grasp the system in a shortened period of time. When the regular season began, it was clear that McCarty wasn't quite sure how to use Benson, calling on him to carry the ball only nine times for 18 yards in a season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Benson had two productive games (Weeks 2 and 4) and two unproductive games (Weeks 1 and 3) before a season-ending foot injury in Week 5.
Upon further review: Benson remained unsigned throughout the 2012 offseason partly because he had already accumulated 1,500-plus carries in his first seven NFL seasons. That factor, combined with his 30th birthday approaching, were red flags for teams considering adding Benson to their roster. The Cincinnati Bengals especially ran Benson into the ground by giving him the ball nearly 900 times in the previous three seasons (2009-2011). Early on, however, Benson looked like he still had a couple good seasons left in him. He was running with decent power and was fairly solid in his decisiveness when there was a hole to hit. He most frequently ran inside to the right, but his most successful runs were outside of the left and right tackles. It was to the outside where Benson had his highest per-rush averages and longest runs. That's one sign Benson still had some life left in his legs. On the negative side, Benson lacked the elusiveness of a starting-caliber running back and averaged only 2.2 yards after contact.
Overall 2012 grade: B-
Status for 2013: 40 percent chance of being on the active roster in Week 1. Consider Benson a solid backup plan. DuJuan Harris will certainly be back next season in Green Bay, while the Packers seem intent on giving James Starks one more season to prove himself and stay off the injury report. Alex Green, who played this season just a year removed from a serious knee injury, should be back for his third season in Green Bay. That means Benson's return to the Packers will likely be decided based on whether the team drafts a running back in April. If general manager Ted Thompson does draft a running back, that new player, along with Harris, Starks and Green, will be enough bodies at the position. That's the most likely scenario. But, if Thompson can't find good value on a running back in the draft, Benson could be the veteran on a cheap contract who steps in if the younger players don't perform well.
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