To accelerate his crash course in the Green Bay Packers’ voluminous playbook, running back Cedric Benson has been crashing the quarterbacks’ meetings.
“It’s great,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on Monday. “That’s what I think you appreciate. Hopefully, young guys are taking notes – how much it means to him. I don’t know if this is a second chance for him and he’s viewing it like that and he wants to do some of the things that he hasn’t done in the past, or maybe this is normal for him, but we love it. Because this offense a lot of times turns into best-play scenarios at the line of scrimmage with me making some checks, him and I being on the same page is going to be important for us.”
The Packers didn’t sign Benson just to take up some carries while the holdovers at the position are either sidelined by injuries (James Starks and Brandon Saine) or limited by injury (Alex Green). Benson, who garnered almost no free agent interest, is taking his opportunity seriously.
“I just think the more times I can hear it, the better it gets for me,” Benson said. “There’s going to be times when I’m going to need to know the route combinations. The more work I can get in there, especially being with Aaron and the quarterbacks in general and just hearing those guys make calls and go through film and some of their progressions, it gives you more knowledge not only of the game but also of the playbook.”
As Rodgers said, their working in concert is going to be critical. If Benson isn't on the same page, especially in pass protection, then there’s no way he can become a key piece in the offensive package. Running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said Benson’s biggest challenge will be “pass protection” and “understanding protections.”
So far, so good.
“He seems to be pretty sharp and he’s picking things up pretty quickly,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements said, “and I’m sure going into the game we’ll have a smaller play list for him. He doesn’t have to know the entire game plan, just the things we’ll be utilizing him for.”
New injury: OT Andrew Datko (concussion).
Returned to practice: WR Diondre Borel (groin).
Old injuries: WR Shaky Smithson (ankle); RB Duane Bennett (knee); CB Davon House (shoulder); RB Brandon Saine (hamstring); FB Jon Hoese (hamstring); RB James Starks (turf toe); LB Desmond Bishop (hamstring/knee); G Ray Dominguez (ankle).
Active PUP list: OLB Frank Zombo (hamstring), DL Johnny Jones (knee), T Derek Sherrod (leg) and TE Andrew Quarless (knee).
“Statistically speaking, this is the healthiest we’ve been in quite some time, and I think our practices the last two days have reflected that,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “The tempo has been outstanding, the quality of work has picked up, and I’m sure that’s for a number of different reasons. Yes, we’re getting healthier.”
The week ahead
There are only four training camp practices remaining. The team will practice at 11 a.m. on Tuesday (helmets) before an off day on Wednesday. Green Bay plays at Cincinnati at 6 p.m. on Thursday. After days off on Friday and Saturday, the team gets back to work at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday and Monday (both in pads). The final practice will be on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 11 a.m. (helmets).
— Time is running out for the players on the PUP list, especially Sherrod, Quarless and Zombo, to get back on the field before the 53-man roster is set on Aug. 31. “You have a couple different elements,” McCarthy said. “You have a medical staff that by nature is conservative and probably this year more conservative than other years, in my opinion. You have these guys that are trying to get back out there. When those two worlds come together, decisions are made. I think all of those guys will be at the wire. You definitely could project that it will go into the regular season, but they’re all individual cases. I think all three of those guys can compete for a spot on our 53.”
— Marshall Newhouse took the first-team reps at left tackle. With Datko out, it was a revolving door of Shea Allard, Herb Taylor, Reggie Wells, Don Barclay and even Evan Dietrich-Smith. “Last year during training camp,” Dietrich, a left tackle at Idaho State, said when asked the last time he had taken a snap at left tackle. “We had a couple injuries and he just threw me out there just for fun.”
— The battle at safety continues, with Anthony Levine jumping ahead of M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian to take first-team reps alongside Morgan Burnett.
— Jarrett Bush and Tramon Williams were the No. 1 cornerbacks, with Sam Shields and Casey Hayward the second tandem.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.