Packers running back Alex Green was quiet in his return to the field, but he passed his most important test–he stayed healthy in his first game nine months removed from ACL surgery.
While Green only managed a meager three yards and three carries against the Chargers, starter James Starks performed even worse. The first preseason game of the 2012 season put an exclamation point on Starks’s inconsistent start to training camp. After dropping a pass that surely would have resulted in a first down on the team’s first drive, Starks lost a fumble deep in the Packers’ own territory.
And with Thursday’s news that the Packers are close to signing veteran running back Cedric Benson, it’s clear that the team is worried about the current state of the position.
The Packers’ current trio of running backs is inexperienced to say the least. Starks, Green and Brandon Saine have just 28 games of experience and 759 career rushing yards between the three of them. Benson, 29, has surpassed 1,000 in each of the past three seasons.
If Benson, in fact, signs with the Packers–which he hasn’t yet–his spot on the team would not be guaranteed. It’s unlikely that the Packers would keep more than three running backs, especially because fullback John Kuhn is a capable ball carrier. Kuhn, Starks and Green each has a secure roster spot, so unless the Packers were able to stash Brandon Saine on the Practice Squad, the team would face a tough decision between the veteran Benson, or the young Saine.
Regardless of who wins the job as the Packers’ “feature back,” head coach Mike McCarthy has clearly shown that he’s not afraid to employ a pass-heavy offense–understandably so, with league MVP Aaron Rodgers under center. And assuming the team continues it’s pass-oriented ways in 2012, the running back most capable of making an impact as a receiver is Green.
Hawaii’s spread attack inflated Green’s gaudy 8.2-yards-per-carry average as a senior, but headed into the 2011 NFL Draft, he was viewed as one of the top receiving running backs in the entire class. And because the Packers use a pass-when-you-can-run-when-you-have-to offense with McCarthy and Rodgers in control, Green may surprise some people in 2012.