The Spread and The Power Back: An Unlikely Marriage?

Traditionally, the spread and the power back were thought to be like oil and water. “They can’t mix!”, they’d say.

Power backs can’t run out of the shotgun! They need to build up speed before the line of scrimmage! They aren’t effective out of the backfield! The personnel needed to run the spread won’t work in a power scheme! The pass catching back provides WAY more value!

And yet up in Green Bay we see Cedric Benson, a power back if there ever was one, smashing his way to 3-7 yard gains. He’s running out of the shotgun. He been called “one of the biggest additions to our offense” by Mike McCarthy. So why is it that a running back who seems to have no value to the Packers system so important?

Variety, Physicality and Attitude

Benson is a running back who can offer them a change of pace form the spread game (The I form and the I-form w/ H-Back formations). He makes the offense not only acknowledge the running game, but also know that the Packers can go from a spread offense to a ‘run to pass’ offense in a heartbeat (SEE: Game vs. Seahawks).

He also runs with a tremendous amount of physicality, which over the course of a game can wear out the opposing defense. He isn’t being asked to hit the home run, but rather to abuse the opposition and make them respect his presence. The value in this is that by wearing out the opposing team, it opens up options in the pass game that plays off the oppositions mental and physical fatigue.

Finally and most importantly, he brings an attitude to Green Bay that they didn’t have in past years. A phrase I saw often used to describe this team in the past was “talented, but clearly finesse” or even more common, “soft”. Now, his addition provides the offensive line with a back they know will finish his run. He brings a power attitude to a finesse system, a mental boost to those around him to match his physicality on every snap.

Time will tell how the Packers offense performs this season and much attention will be payed to how Rodgers and the passing game progresses. If successful, don’t forget the potential impact a power back could have on a spread offense.

It could be the tale of the square peg that didn’t just fit in the round hole, but bull dozed right through it.


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