Cedric Benson Injury: How Packers' Offense Must Adapt Without Veteran RB
Cedric Benson is going to be out for quite a while.
According to Marc Sessler of NFL.com:
Green Bay Packers running back Cedric Benson was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, but he isn't done for the year.
So while Benson is out, the Packers certainly have to compensate for his absence. With that, let's dive into Green Bay and see how the cheese must now approach its offensive schemes.
John Kuhn needs to be given more snaps, because he can make some plays for Green Bay. As one of the league's more versatile fullbacks, his overall experience bodes well in the event of Benson's injury.
Obviously he is great for additional pass protection and leaking out as a checkdown. However, the man deserves more carries to slam between the tackles. Right now, Green Bay not only ranks No. 21 in rushing but it averages just 97.2 yards per game on the ground.
On the bright side, though, the Packers do average 4.3 yards per carry.
Therefore, it's just a matter of working more in the trenches to set up play-action. Kuhn has been with the Packers since 2008, and his knowledge of the offense will keep the Packers afloat. Plus, he has more athleticism than given credit for.
He can make defenders miss in open space, has quick explosion up the middle and can occasionally go off tackle.
The Packers don't need a constant outside rushing presence to be successful. Still, the ability to punch up the gut and get physical will help them to remain balanced, and Kuhn's acceleration and reliability as a ball-carrier takes pressure off of Aaron Rodgers.
In addition to Kuhn seeing more snaps, the Packers have another option in Randall Cobb.
For one, Rodgers is the Packers' second-leading rusher heading into Week 6. Although he's one impressively mobile quarterback, that also means Green Bay doesn't use everyone available to attack a defense on the ground.
Benson was obvious, and Kuhn must be the next Brahma Bull for downhill purposes. Cobb is a weapon to use on jet sweeps, quick tosses and anything else to widen a defense. The last thing Green Bay needs is to consistently face seven or eight defenders in the box.
That makes the ground game ineffective and the pass protection ultimately more vulnerable. A guy like Cobb will force linebackers and defensive ends to flow in his direction. From there, counters and traps to Kuhn are set up inside as well as a broadened landscape of play-action.
How does the Packers' regular season pan out?
Best Option is Sticking to Strengths
For as much as the Packers need to improve at running the rock, continuing to rely on Aaron Rodgers is unquestionably Mike McCarthy's best bet.
No matter which set of receiving targets break the huddle, Rodgers is well-versed at spreading the field and finding the favorable one-on-one matchups, His ability to read pre-snap and make the correct audible is among the select few around, so putting the game in his hands is imperative.
Now, Green Bay still cannot abandon the ground game, because we've seen the pass protection get exposed before. And the best way to slow any rush is to never lose sight at running the ball. Rodgers just becomes more dangerous with the additional ways of play-action.
Kuhn provides the traditional setup of a waggle, roll-out or quick fake when dropping back. From a perpendicular standpoint, play-faking to Cobb will open up zones over the middle and get the defensive line moving more laterally to create passing lanes.
Because of how well Rodgers can throw the ball, Green Bay must go with more play-action to briefly freeze a defense. That only keeps the balance intact, which in turn reduces the Packers' predictability despite missing Cedric Benson.
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