Benson ‘leading off’ in Packers’ backfield
GREEN BAY, Wis. — It sounds like Cedric Benson is about to officially be named the Packers’ starting running back for this season.
Benson’s biggest competition for that spot during Green Bay’s recent training camp practices has been second-year running back Alex Green. However, with Green still somewhat limited 10 months after tearing his ACL, Benson will likely get the nod as the starter.
“Cedric is leading off,” Green told FOXSportsWisconsin.com when asked if he or Benson would be starting when the Packers begin the regular season on Sept. 9.
Green added that it could be a “combo” effort between he and Benson, with the coaching staff further addressing the situation on Wednesday.
“He’s doing a great job of picking things up,” Green said of Benson, who signed with the Packers on Aug. 12. “He’s a very smart player, obviously a good running back. We’re just working with what we got right now and making the best of it.”
Green started the team’s third preseason game last week, with Benson not getting his first carry until the third drive. Green gained 10 total rushing yards on five attempts in that game, while Benson exploded for 38 yards on six carries.
Benson, 29, was signed to a one-year contract, a move necessitated somewhat by the turf toe injury to James Starks. Entering training camp, Starks was projected to be the starting running back. But the third-year pro struggled in Green Bay’s first preseason game in San Diego, dropping a pass and fumbling on the opening drive, and has not been able to play or practice since due to his injury.
As Benson continues to shine with his new team and Green gets closer to being cleared for full participation, the news on Starks is not so good.
“James Starks, just talking to the medical staff, is coming along slow,” coach Mike McCarthy said Tuesday. “So we’ll just continue to treat him. He hasn’t made a whole of progress here of late.”
Starks has already been ruled out of the Packers’ preseason finale this Thursday and could be in jeopardy of not being ready for the start of the regular season.
Green Bay did not have much success last season running the ball, finishing 27th in the NFL in total yards on the ground. In a pass-first offensive system behind MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers won’t look to break any rushing records in 2012 now that Benson is on board. But if the combination of Benson and Green can be better than the 2011 duo of Starks and Ryan Grant, Rodgers will have more options at the line of scrimmage when the team runs its no-huddle offense.
“The sky’s the limit for the offense,” Green said. “I believe that we could be unbeatable, and that’s what our goal is coming into the season.”
Benson is coming off of three consecutive 1,000-plus yard seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. From the look of Benson’s quick cuts during his 16 days so far in Green Bay, if he gets near the 273 carries he had last season, 2012 could be his fourth year in a row with more than 1,000 yards.
Green, 24, was the Packers’ third-round pick in 2011. He was the third-string running back as a rookie and had only three carries before his ACL injury occurred in Week 7 on special teams.
“It’d be good to get more than three carries, but if three carries is what I get, then that’s what I have to deal with to make the best of my situation,” Green said. “It definitely feels good to be able to complete training camp with no major setbacks. No new swellings, things like that.
“I had a couple nicks and bruises, but it was just good for me to feel that early on to know that I can overcome it, and have confidence that my knee is strong. It’s a good start for me to head into the regular season.”
The starting offense won’t play much in Thursday’s final preseason game at home against the Kansas City Chiefs, but Starks has already been ruled out. There will be more players made unavailable closer to game time, but McCarthy confirmed Tuesday that Starks will definitely be joined on the sideline by cornerback Davon House (shoulder), offensive tackle Andrew Datko (concussion), linebacker Robert Francois (hamstring) and tight end Tom Crabtree (shoulder).
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