It is no secret the Green Bay Packers like to pass and it is an even lesser known secret they enjoy using play-action. With the addition of running back Cedric Benson, the Packers play-action passing game will improve greatly as opposing teams will fail to stop the offense.
Despite Green Bay having one of the worst running games in all of football and not a single rusher over 600 yards last season, Aaron Rodgers was still able to torch defenses using play-action. In fact, Rodgers had the highest passer rating in the NFL last year when the Packers used play-action.
He completed 57 of his 84 attempts for 1,074 yards, 12 touchdowns, and one interception with a passer rating of 145.3. All of that without a running game was just one of several reasons why Rodgers was named the league’s MVP.
With Benson now taking a majority of the handoffs, Green Bay’s passing game will become a force that cannot be stopped. Benson has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the last three seasons. The Packers offensive line will have to create holes, but there is no reason why Benson cannot reach the 1,000 yard mark for a fourth consecutive year.
If Benson can get positive yardage on every carry, no matter how little, it will have a great effect on the passing game as a whole. Defenses will have no choice but to account for him because nobody wants to face Rodgers while also have to worry about stopping the run.
After watching Green Bay’s third preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals it was clear how big of an effect Benson would truly have on the offense. Every team the Packers used play-action where it appeared Benson was going to get the ball, the entire Bengals defensive front seven would go with him leaving Rodgers plenty of room to work with. Rodgers would boot leg out into open space and survey the field looking for the wide open receiver.
Granted, this was Benson’s first game with Green Bay so Cincinnati may have felt they were going to try and give him as many touches as possible to see what they would be working with. Not to mention, Benson played for the Bengals the last few years so they are fully aware of his running capabilities. Even so, I still firmly believe this pattern will have the same effect on other teams during the regular season.
Green Bay will have their first true test against the NFC’s No. 1 defense from a year ago. If the Packers are able to run on the San Francisco 49ers and utilize the play-action with success, it should give them a good idea of what they will be able to do to the rest of the league on a weekly basis.