Cedric Benson Get’s a Bad Rap

Now that it’s official that Cedric Benson is a Packer there are many that are asking why Ted Thompson would sign a back that’s thought of as a chronic fumbler and not a good pass catcher, when Ryan Grant, who’s thought of having very sure hands, and knows the Packer system is available.  On the surface and based upon perceptions it seems like a strange signing that goes against what Ted Thompson would do historically.  Ted Thompson has enough of a track record and seems too committed to his “system” of signing free agents that he wouldn’t just do a 180 and go against his own methods.  Would he?

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Digging into the 2008 – 2011 historical performance of Cedric Benson and Ryan Grant, and 2010 – 2011 stats for James Starks we find:

Benson touches the ball 32% more per game than Grant and 142% more per game than Starks.  A huge difference in how the players have been used which may bring up factors such as fatigue, quantity of hits and other factors that negatively effect performance.

Touches per Game:

Benson – 29
Grant -22
Starks – 12

Benson catches more passes per game than Starks but less than Grant but overall the numbers are practically identical.

Catches per Game:

Grant – 2.00
Benson – 1.89
Starks – 1.81

Compared to Grant and Starks, Benson does in fact fumble more often and has a higher percentage of fumbles per 100 touches.  What is interesting is that Starks does not have a reputation as a fumbler but Starks and Benson have very similar fumble percentages per 100 touches.

Fumble percentage per 100 touches:

Grant – .689%
Starks – 1.036%
Benson – 1.162%

Ted Thompson and his staff certainly have analyzed and scrutinized these very figures and have seen the same things.  The question then becomes with Benson; will he cut down his fumble percentages in a more limited role because he is fresher and takes less hits per game?  If he can, and I’m sure the Packers believe he can, then the Packers have gained a back that can get the short yardage and a back that can run out the clock without sacrificing pass catching out of the backfield and without taking any real additional risk of fumbles.  Benson may very well be the difference maker for the Packers this year.

Updated 08/23

Cedric Benson looked very good last night against the Bengals.  Several Green Bay Packer players were interviewed during and after the game and many commented that it feels good to have a back they know will get the yards.

“Cedric Benson looked very natural,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s an instinctive, powerful player. He got off to a good start.”

After the game, Rodgers had nothing but good things to say about his newest backfield partner. “He was great,” Rodgers said. “He made some runs out of nothing. He’s still learning the offense … we’re excited about him.”  “He knows the game,” Rodgers said. “He’s got a good running style, hits the hole quickly. The best is yet to come for him.”