The Packers organization knew there was a serious issue with the running game a year ago and brought in former Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson to address the issue in 2012.
Unfortunately for Benson and the Packers, he suffered a lisfranc injury and cannot return any sooner than Week 14.
With Benson out of the picture, the Packers' running game has been in shambles. Alex Green has been leading the way and has been backed up by both James Starks and Johnny White. The Green Bay coaching staff has yet to find a combination effective enough to make defenses fear the rushing attack.
Without Benson, the rushing attack has been miserable. The Packers know it, opponents know it, and it has come to a point where Rodgers has even publicly stated that he needs more help from what has been a ineffective ground game so far (h/t ProFootballTalk):
“Quantity is important – we want to have a certain amount of runs every game to keep them honest...But I have to say the quality of them has not been anywhere where we’d like them...We’ve got to run the ball better.”
Rodgers has a point—any team has to at least force the running game to keep opposing defensive units on their toes and not allow the offense to become too one-dimensional.
The problem for Green Bay? The Packers simply don't have enough skill in the backfield to make defense care in the least that Rodgers might hand the ball off.
Green has been horrible on the ground with 76 carries for 219 yards and no scores—landing him with a laughably bad 2.9 yards per carry average despite having an MVP caliber threat at quarterback handing him the ball.
As bad as Green has been, it's not as if there is anything better behind him on the depth chart. Starks has only seen six carries and has been in head coach Mike McCarty's dog house courtesy of of turnover issues and injuries.
Averaging 2.9 yards on the ground isn't going to cut it. Despite how correct Rodgers' assessment of the offensive situation is, it simply cannot work until Benson returns.
Even when Benson was healthy, he only appeared in five games and carried the ball 71 times for 248 yards and one score while averaging 3.5 yards per carry. He's not a serious threat by any means, but he was much better than any other option on the roster and was prone to picking up big gains when the defense didn't respect him.
The fact of the matter is, the Packers front office has to do a better job of finding a running game. It failed to land a big name such as the Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch in the offseason and is now paying the price.
A repeat of this past offseason cannot happen after this year. McCarthy and the organization has to find a legitimate running back to take pressure off Rodgers. Continually throwing over 500 passes will eventually catch up to Rodgers, and reducing his workload with a running game is the only option.
The lack of a running game in Green Bay is a testament to just how good of a quarterback Rodgers truly is, as he puts up MVP numbers with defenses pulling out all the stops to shut him down.
With that being said, the Packers should stop trying to force feed the running game. Opposing defenses don't buy or respect it, and until Benson returns, the offense is solely in Rodgers' hands thanks to the lack of talent on the roster at the running back position.
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