That was my initial reaction when it became known that the Bengals were looking early in the 2008 NFL Draft for a running back. Then Chris Perry and Rudi Johnson stepped up their off-season conditioning and rehab impressing Lewis enough to forgo the position addressing other needs. If that wait-and-see scenario, a best case scenario, fulfills the team's basic re-designation of successful rushing to off-set the terrible degradation the past two seasons, then perhaps a hope, prayer and a wait-and-see approach will benefit the team in the long run. Consider for an instant that if the Bengals went running back early, then they'd not have Keith Rivers or Pat Sims -- two guys this team desperately needs. One or the other, but not both. Then again, perhaps the team could have used the second pick for a running back rather than receiver. To be honest, the Bengals used their first three picks well. I haven't a qualm in the world about any of them.
Since 2003, Marvin Lewis has drafted two running backs -- three if you count Jeremi Johnson. Chris Perry and Kenny Irons have spent considerable amount of time off the field with injuries. Serious injuries. In four seasons, Perry has played in 34% out of a possible 64 games. Other than 2005, Perry's career-high of games played in a single-season is six (2006). Between Irons and Perry, neither took a single snap in 2007.
Rudi Johnson gutted out a bad hamstring and ineffective line blocking all season -- he just couldn't do it. It was around this time that Kenny Watson started to blossom and fans became excited about what DeDe Dorsey could string together. It was almost like Watson replaced Rudi as the feature back and Dorsey, when given the chance (which wasn't much) took the role of third-down back as best as we could expect. But that's what happens to a team that finishes 7-9.
We know that Perry is recovering well and has "impressed" the head coach. Same for Rudi. It's generally believed that Kenny Irons won't be ready for the season likely placed on PUP for the first six weeks of the season. And it's unknown if he'll be ready even then. Watson will be in the mix bringing us to three running backs to start the season. If the team keeps Dorsey -- for some reason, I've never really felt that the team has been impressed with him enough to utilize him fully -- the Bengals would likely be set with Jeremi Johnson rounding out the group.
But this is why I call it a hope-and-prayer, or wait-and-see, scenario. Perry has come into seasons healthy before. Yet, he falls eventually. Running backs degrade so quickly in the NFL that not a great many people think that Rudi will return to old form. Watson is serviceable, but he's hardly the league's premier back and Dorsey is a small scat back that's best used on third downs -- screen passes, dumps, draws, etc...
In the end, I believe the Bengals are right to give this cast of running backs one more chance. But in the end, it could also be the team's undoing. And for the love of god, don't sign Shaun Alexander.