After another offseason spent discussing their offensive balance, we all know the Green Bay Packers won't suddenly turn themselves away from their potent passing game. What they would like to do, as we noted in our Packers Camp Confidential, is increase the number of explosive runs they produce to help take the edge off defenses aligned to play the pass.
Last season, the Packers ranked No. 24 in the NFL with 29 explosive runs, defined as runs that gain at least 12 yards. Speaking this summer at training camp, quarterback Aaron Rodgers suggested the team will work this season to identify plays that give it the best chance at explosiveness -- even if the run-pass ratio doesn't change.
So I thought it was worth looking into the history of running back Cedric Benson, whom the Packers signed this week to aid their injury-depleted backfield. Our general impression of Benson is as a hard inside runner and not really a breakaway threat, but sometimes the numbers can be surprising.
In this case, however, they were not.
The chart, courtesy of Jason Starrett of ESPN Stats & Information, breaks down the 98 explosive runs in Benson's seven-year career. That equals roughly 6.4 percent of his total carries over that span, which ranks 18th of 24 running backs with at least 1,000 carries since Benson's rookie season of 2005.
The league average of explosive runs per 1,000 carries over that span is 7.7 percent.
Benson hasn't played in many dynamic offenses during his time with the Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals, but at his roots, he is a 5-foot-11, 227-pound bruiser whose career average is 3.8 yards per carry. As Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said when the Packers signed him, Benson will get what's blocked for him.
The hope for Benson and any running back in the Packers' offense is seeing more run-friendly defensive alignments, with fewer players in the box, than most teams see. A team looking for a veteran running back in August can't be picky, of course. Benson might well have been the best available. But historically speaking, Benson isn't the type of runner who can help the Packers fulfill their quest for extra explosiveness.