I’ve been dreading this announcement for a few days now. Green Bay Packers running back Cedric Benson is out for the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery Wednesday on his left foot.
The Packers made use of the new NFL rule allowing one player to be designated to return from the injured reserve by naming Benson as that player. Now, the Packers are not able to designate another injured reserve player to return. This stinks. This really stinks. I want my designated player card back!
Benson’s return could have been huge for the Packers. Though he only played in the first five games, Benson gave the Packers’ ground game a credibility they have not had for some time and won’t have any time soon.
This is a big problem for the Packers, who have not had much success running the ball without Benson. His absence has caused difficulties for the passing game as well. The lack of a run game just makes it too easy for defenses. The Packers’ favored strategy of spreading the field with four or five receivers is easily undone when the defense is able to put six defensive backs in coverage because there is no viable threat to run.
There’s been a lot of discussion of how the Packers have struggled against cover two defenses, and, without Benson, they’re sure to see more of that coverage. Not all teams have the personnel or the talent to play Cover two, but teams facing a Green Bay offense that has very little punch in the running game are now more capable of using that defensive style.
Green Bay will continue to have James Starks and Alex Green share the load at tailback, along with some help from fullback John Kuhn.
Benson is just the latest in a string of injuries for the Packers on both sides of the ball. Starks and Green have yet to be able to make up for his loss, and will have to start gaining more yards from scrimmage as the Packers head down the stretch. The advent of colder weather puts more of a premium on the run game, which could spell big trouble for Green Bay.
The upcoming game against a strong Minnesota Vikings front seven will be a good measuring stick to see if the Packers have been able to make any improvement or adjustments in the run game. I’d like to see more of lightning-quick wide receiver Randall Cobb in the backfield, as well as in increase in screen plays and short throws to try to mimic a run game.
As the Packers have gotten used to saying this season: next man up!