All offseason the Green Bay Packers have been hoping that someone would step up and take hold of the starting running back position. Last night in Cincinnati, the newly acquired Cedric Benson may have done just that with his six-carry, 38 yard performance against his former team.
Benson, who was just signed as a free agent by Green Bay a little over a week ago, is coming off three consecutive 1,000 yards season with the Bengals. After being overlooked by most teams, the former University of Texas star ran with a purpose at Paul Brown Stadium in his first appearance as a Packer.
Benson showed explosiveness and hit the hole with purpose, showing that even though he is 29-years old and has carried the ball 1,529 times over the course of his career, there is still plenty of tread left on the tires.
With James Starks out, the projected starter at running back entering training camp suffering from a turf toe injury, it seems inevitable that Benson will end up being named the starter for this week's showdown at Lambeau Field against the defending NFC West Champion San Francisco 49ers.
Alex Green, a second-year player from Hawaii, was given an opportunity to lay claim to the position as he opened the game as the starter but managed just 10 yards on five carries. After that, the Packers really have no other legitimate starting options, which explains why general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy turned to a veteran.
However, Green and fullback John Kuhn will help out in passing situations because Benson is more of a two-down back. It will still be a running back by committee approach but make no mistake, Benson looks explosive, motivated and appears ready to be the workhouse back Green Bay desperately needs.
The bold move by Thompson has given the Packer's running game credibility. It also signals a shift to more of a one-back system, as Benson routinely had success out of the shotgun and single-back formations against the Bengals. If this continues, Green Bay will finally have a chance to take advantage of all the seven-man fronts it sees due to its highly explosive passing attack.
It's true, one preseason game doesn't mean a lot, but if Benson keeps running the way we he did Thursday night, the Packers running game will be much better than expected.