Play-action passing without a run threat
Speaking of the Giants, here is an example of how the play-action pass will still work with no threat of a running game.
In this classic Week 13 meeting in New York last December, the Packers had the ball in the fourth quarter, leading 28-27 with 9:39 left. To this point, Rodgers had four carries for 32 yards, while the real Green Bay running game had a putrid 21 carries for 42 yards.
It was the sixth play call of the drive, and the previous five were all pass plays. Given the situation, why would New York fear Rodgers handing the ball off in Green Bay’s worst rushing performance of the season?
The Giants were aligned in their usual 4-3 front, with three linebackers a few yards behind the linemen. While the Packers may have shown a crowded backfield, it was a play-action pass, and the linebackers were sucked into the line. Rodgers fooled them. The three linebackers retreated to fill the passing lanes, but Rodgers moved to his left and found an open Greg Jennings for a 15-yard gain.
The running game could not have been less effective for the Packers that day, and despite their pass-heavy tendencies, the Giants still were biting on the play action.
Linebackers will often instinctually play the run, which is why someone like Rodgers or Peyton Manning can still dominate the play-action game regardless of the run’s effectiveness.
Why Benson is no upgrade
For a team that puts the ball into the hands of their quarterback at such a historic rate, the need for a “workhorse” back like Benson is not necessary.
It is hard to read an article about Benson without mention of his three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons, because people still get excited over a player that can average 62.5 yards per game in a 16-game season. Well, apparently everyone but the Bengals, who chose not to re-sign the 29-year-old running back.
Who would you rather have at running back?
Choice A is the three-year average for Benson in Cincinnati since 2009, while Choice B is what Ryan Grant and James Stark did in 2011 for the Packers.
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Durability: Benson turns 30 in December, but that’s not significant when he has 1,529 career carries. The 2010 season was the only time Benson has played in all 16 games. His off-field problems make him a liability for NFL suspensions. He was suspended one game last season for violating the personal conduct policy.
Big-play ability: The longest run of Benson’s career is 46 yards, and it came against the Cleveland Browns in 2008. However, Benson fumbled on the play, so it was not even a meaningful gain.
Passing game: Limited by a lack of speed, Benson only has 106 receptions in 91 games, and just one receiving touchdown. He will not be a three-down back or productive receiver in Green Bay. He may be a better pass protector than James Starks.
Ball security: After only seven fumbles on 998 touches (0.70 fumble rate) in his first five seasons, Benson has coughed up the ball 12 times the last two seasons on 637 touches (1.88 fumble rate).
Touchdown maker: Benson’s season high for rushing touchdowns is seven (2010). He scored eight total touchdowns that year. He has 32 career touchdowns, and only five came away from the red zone.
Effectiveness: In Chicago, Benson averaged 3.79 yards per carry. In Cincinnati, Benson averaged 3.77 yards per carry. The only difference is he had more carries, hence more yards, but still the same low average, which ranks dead last among running backs active last season with at least 1,000 career carries.
Short yardage: Thought to be a power back, Benson may not offer the Packers any advantage in short-yardage situations over what they have with fullback John Kuhn.
Table 3 displays a summary of Benson’s short-yardage runs in the four seasons he spent in Cincinnati. These short-yardage plays, defined by needing 1-2 yards on third or fourth down, may not come up very often, but they are usually critical moments.
At just under 60 percent, Benson joins a Green Bay offense that has had more success converting with their stable of running backs. Table 4 shows the Packers’ success for the last four seasons.
Fullback John Kuhn is 17 of 20 (85.0 percent) on 3rd-and-1 runs since 2008. Even Aaron Rodgers has converted 14 of his 18 (77.8 percent) short-yardage runs for a first down.
When it comes to 3rd-and-2 plays, Green Bay has called their quarterback’s number 84.0 percent of the time. Rodgers has converted 58.1 percent of those plays, or about as good as Benson. Difference is Rodgers averages 8.47 yards per attempt on 3rd and 2, compared to just 3.24 yards per carry for Benson.
Like most situations for Green Bay’s offense, putting the ball in Rodgers’ hands is the best option.
If the Green Bay Packers are looking for balance, then they should worry about their defense and not be concerned with the running game. Getting the defense back to the level it was at in 2010 is what will make them the favorite for the Super Bowl this season.
Not Cedric Benson. Not the running game. Not in Green Bay.
Scott Kacsmar writes for Cold, Hard Football Facts, Bleacher Report, Colts Authority, and contributes data to Pro-Football-Reference.com and NFL Network.
CSN: Brian Urlacher, who played 13 seasons for the Bears, announced his retirement from football Wenesday on his personal twitter account.
CSN: The Super Bowl's golden anniversary will be held in the Golden State. The new stadium, which opens in 2014, in Santa Clara will host Super Bowl L two years later, the NFL announced Tuesday.
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