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Benson brings every-down element back to Packers' offense

Nov. 6, 2013
 
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It’s early, but Cedric Benson has made a legitimate case to be the every-down back the Green Bay Packers have lacked since Ryan Grant's season-ending ankle injury in Week 1 of the 2010 season.- All they had to do was peruse the NFL free-agent scrap heap to find him. A bear market for 29-year-old running backs delayed Benson from signing until Aug. 12, but he has since received 73 snaps in the Packers' first two regular-season games and accounted for 29 of the 33 rushes given to their running backs. During Thursday’s 23-10 win over Chicago, Benson became the first Packers’ running back to see 20 carries in a game since Dec. 19, 2010, the heaviest workload doled out to a Green Bay running back since Brandon Jackson rushed 22 times for 99 yards during a 31-27 loss to the New England Patriots. The 5-foot-11, 227-pounder stayed to the script and was consistent throughout. While Benson didn’t have a run longer than 11 yards, he finished with 116 total yards (81 rushing, 35 passing) for a solid outing following his 18-yard effort against San Francisco’s suffocating defense last Sunday. “We brought Cedric Benson in here because he’s a very good football player that was available,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “That’s something that’s constant in our personnel department. They’re always looking at players and anytime we feel that we can bring a good football player into our program and if he hits and so forth, that’s what we’re doing. I understand what the statistics were in the past, but it’s important to run the ball, and he’s getting better, he’s getting more comfortable.” Since Grant went down with his ankle injury, the Packers stirred their ideology towards more of a pass-first philosophy with a chorus of backs, most recently James Starks and an older Grant, filling in the  back-by-committee approach. When the Packers opted to not bring back Grant this season, Starks entered his third NFL season and the incumbent starter, but suffered a turf toe injury during the first preseason game against San Diego that ushered in Benson’s signing a few days later. Starks sat the last month with the ailment, but returned to practice in a  limited capacity on Wednesday, taking part in the running back’s ball-catching drill and running lightly. He still didn’t play against the Bears after being listed as doubtful, but McCarthy hinted he could return at some point this upcoming week with 11 days between Thursday’s 23-10 win over Chicago and next Monday’s road game in Seattle. With last year’s third-round pick, Alex Green, also factoring into the backfield equation, the Packers are becoming increasingly more deep at the position, but Benson positioned himself nicely to continue to see an expanded role following his effort against his former team. “I know being here, you never know,” said Benson of what’s next. “Compared to the way last week went, all I can relate to is last week, so I didn’t know what this week would be like. But I was just ready to get the ball in my hands and get the chains moving.” -whodkiew@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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Get Green Bay Packers updates as they happen from our reporting team: (from left) Mike Vandermause, Wes Hodkiewicz and Pete Dougherty.

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