Yesterday morning, I posted a couple questions and answers I exchanged with Kevin McCauley at Acme Packing Company. In that post I focused on the Packers defense, particularly as it relates to Charles Woodson and his potential matchup against Vernon Davis.
I wanted to flip sides this morning and take a look at the Packers rushing game. The Packers are mostly known for their passing game, but they managed a moderately effective, albeit incredibly low key rushing attack in 2011. James Starks rushed for 578 yards, while Ryan Grant rushed for 559 yards. The Packers combined rushing effort was 27th in total yards, but seventh in terms of efficiency. They did not run a lot, but when they did, they got the job done for the most part.
This year, they brought in Cedric Benson after he was sitting around as a free agent for a while. James Starks was expected to emerge as the starter, but he has been dealing with turf toe for the last month and is out this weekend. Benson is coming off three straight 1,000 yard rushing seasons with the Bengals but was not shown a lot of love in free agency.
Head after the jump for some thoughts from our Packers blog, Acme Packing Company, on the Packers rushing attack.
NN: Football Outsiders ranked the Packers run game fairly high last year, but it seemed like it was often an after thought. With James Starks out this week, what do you see from Cedric Benson, particularly in light of the 49ers strong rush defense?
Acme Packing Company: I think that the Packers' run game was effective because of how well they spread the field and how dominant Aaron Rodgers was. It's not tough to run on a team that isn't expecting you to run. If the preseason is any indication, Cedric Benson is an upgrade over both Starks and the departed Ryan Grant. He should get most of the carries, but expect a decent workload for Alex Green as well. I'm not expecting much out of them, but if the 49ers respect the Packers' pass offense a bit too much, it wouldn't be stunning to see the Packers' backs average 4 yards per carry.
The Packers could find a way to run on the 49ers, but I'd be a bit surprised if the Packers found success. Particularly 4+ yards per carry. The 49ers will need to keep close attention to the Packers passing game, but the athleticism in their front seven (or potentially front six in the nickel) is second to none. Even while defending the pass, they should be able to converge on Cedric Benson or Alex Green in a timely fashion.
The 49ers certainly cannot ignore the Packers rushing game, but the passing game really is what it is all about. I realize that's a Captain Obvious thing to say, but it is still worth noting. The 49ers defense will have its hands plenty full with the slightly decent Packers passing game.