Coaches love to find diamonds in the rough; players that they take late in the draft that end up playing like first round picks. Every year there is at least one such player that takes the league by surprise and makes a team's scouting department proud.
There is another kind of player that tends to take people by surprise too--the older ones that everyone thinks is washed up or too high maintenance. Every year there is at least one of those guys that proves he still has a little gas left in his tank after all. These guys are largely ignored throughout the preseason until a team gets ravaged by injuries. When he gets his chance he makes the most of it.
This year that guy looks to be Cedric Benson, the new running back for the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers will live and die according to the play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers; that goes without saying. With him leading one of the most dangerous passing games in the NFL, Green Bay will always be in contention for the Super Bowl. However, as last season proved, a team needs to be good at more than one aspect of the game to win the Super Bowl.
Last year's champions, the New York Giants, had a top-notch passing game to go with a stifling defense. New England also had a great passing game, but had little to no running game and one of the worst defenses in football. Green Bay was in a similar position as the Patriots; strong passing game, poor running game (27th overall), and the worst defense in the game.
Cedric Benson could be just what they need to alter that.
In Benson the Packers get a good--not great--running back. Even though he never quite lived up to his high draft position (No. 4 pick in 2005) he has managed to have a productive career when he wasn't getting arrested. He had all the makings of another high profile bust when the Bears finally gave up on him following the 2007 season, but after the Bengals picked him he seemed to revive his career.
It was a little surprising to see the Bengals cut Benson loose after four productive seasons. His reliable production helped make rookie Andy Dalton's entry into the NFL a little less harsh then it could have been had the Bengals had no rushing game at all. They did pick up the Law Firm (BenJarvus Green-Ellis), but the former Patriot has rarely been a full-time back.
Their loss looks to be the Packers gain. Green Bay does not need a back to gain 1,500 yards or even 1,200. They need someone who defenders will have to account for, which would loosen up the coverage defenders will have against the pass, making the job Aaron Rodgers is tasked with much, much easier. If need be it would be nice to be able to grind down the clock to preserve a win as well.
Cedric Benson is good enough to give the Packers just that and he showed it in his first action with the team Thursday night against the Bengals. He was often faced with just six defenders in the box (because of the threat the passing game carries), and was able to exploit that for some solid carries. It was only preseason, but with mostly starters playing at that point it is a promising look at what the future could hold for the Packers.