Cedric Benson was signed a few weeks ago after a quiet offseason. He had been a productive workhorse running back for the Cincinnati Bengals between 2008 and 2011, racking up 22 total touchdowns and nearly 4,200 rushing yards in those four seasons.
He was signed for the most part out of necessity. With prospective starter James Starks out with turf toe, backups Brandon Saine and Duane Bennett unable to practice, and second-year man Alex Green still limited by his ACL rehab, there simply weren't enough running backs to take all the necessary snaps. My first thought was that Benson might just be a camp body, to keep the defense honest while the injured players prepared for their returns, but the continued absences have made it clear that he is anything but that - Benson will, in all likelihood, be the Packers' starting running back when Week 1 arrives.
In a way, it's fitting that Benson's first game action in Green and Gold comes against his old team. He was not shy about his desire to be a bigger part of the offense in 2010, and one could imagine that he would have been increasingly displeased by the team's transition to a more pass-heavy offense last season (although winning certainly helps to ease those concerns). Then his old team went out and signed BenJarvus Green-Ellis instead of offering Benson a contract to return to Cincinnati.
While Benson has been putting on a happy face and suggesting that he doesn't feel any animosity towards the Bengals organization, I can't help wondering if that's just a politically correct facade to cover how he really feels. Comments like this make me think that he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder tonight:
I don't hold nothing personal against them but naturally you are going to show up on the team that passed on you. It will be good to work against that defense because I've seen those guys come in, I've seen them work together. It will be good to put a licking on them.
Benson would likely be getting a good number of carries tonight regardless of the depth chart, since the team needs to evaluate him in game action. But with the Packers placing him into a starting role and this being the third preseason game, he will have an even greater opportunity to show the organization what he can do in the Packers' first-team offense against defensive schemes with which he is familiar.
Benson will no doubt have some growing pains in the Packers' offense, as it's hardly easy to pick up on. However, I fully expect that he will have an impressive performance tonight, showing Packers fans why Ted Thompson chose him out of all the free agent running backs available.
Related stories ahead of Packers vs. Bengals
Slot Receiver Battle | Packers vs. Bengals: TV, radio and streaming information | Winners and losers from Week 2 vs. Browns | Thursday morning links | Nickel safety battle | Five backups to watch | Five starters to watch | Five Bengals to watch | PUP Bubble Watch | Packers injuries | Bengals injuries | Observations from last practice
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