The pre-season release of the Cincinnati Bengals depth chart didn't show too much of a surprise with Cedric Benson listed as the starter and Kenny Watson backing him up. But there was a small surprise with third year player Brian Leonard being listed over four year veteran DeDe Dorsey. But will this hold up though the preseason? And did Brian deserve to be listed over Dorsey? This could be the battle to watch during preseason amongst the running backs since the top two look to be pretty much settled.
Leonard came to the Bengals in a trade with the St. Louis Rams for defensive end Orien Harris earlier this year. Leonard was a second round draft pick by the Rams in 2007 from Rutgers but has played sparingly over the past two years. He has a career rushing average of 3.5 yards per carry while at St. Louis and 6.1 yards per catch. He is noted as being a pass catcher coming out of the backfield as well as having something that the Bengals need: good character.
DeDe Dorsey has been with the Bengals twice in his career after sighing as a college free agent in 2006. He played in all four preseason games averaging 7.5 yards per rush and caught 3 passes for 80 yards. He was cut by the Bengals just before the season started and landed on the Indianapolis Colts the next day. He spent the season and post season playing on special teams, but he did gain a prized possession in a Super Bowl ring for that season. The same ironic fate befell him for the 2007 season playing in all four Colts preseason games only to be cut just before the season started, only to land back with the Bengals a couple weeks later. He averaged 8.7 yards per carry that season while doing something that a Bengal has not done since 1978: returning his own blocked punt for a TD. Plus, this was the first blocked punt by a Bengal since 1989. Yes, Dorsey may have had a run in or two with the law, but nothing at the level that several other Bengals players have established in recent years.
Although I believe the Kenny Watson has proven himself to be a starter taking over for Rudi Johnson in 2007, I believe he should have been the starter last season. But after signing with the Bengals in September last year, Cedric Benson showed late in the season that he is looking to forget his disappointing past with the Bears and prove that he should be an NFL star. During last three games of '08, Benson racked up 161 total yards from scrimmage (73 rushing, 88 receiving) against the Washington Redskins, rushed for 171 yards against the Cleveland Browns and 111 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs (thought I was going to miss spell it didn't ya!!), allowing the Bengals to win the final three games of the year. Prior to that, he rushed for 104 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars helping the Bengals to their first win of the season. Benson led the team for those four games in total yardage from the line of scrimmage and help solidify a tumultuous running back situation.
Kenny Watson has been with the Bengals for seven of his eight years in the NFL. In 2007, he took over the starting spot for an injured Rudi Johnson and led the team in total yards from scrimmage with 1113 yards. He finished 2007 with a 4.3 yards per carry average, far out reaching Benson's 2008 3.5 yard average. In 2007, Watson showed a burst of speed into the line that I think is underrated and appeared to have the speed to turn the corner on sweeps. Benson is known more for hitting the line then spreading the defense with his speed. However, recent reporting from the OTA's is showing he may possess the speed necessary to make this type of play effective.
The running back position looks to be set in terms of the top two on the depth chart. I believe both Watson and Benson could start for the Bengals at anytime and prove to be effective. Unless there is something unexpected, the depth chart will list Benson at the top with Watson in the second spot at the start of the season. But from there, it gets fuzzy. I would not be surprised to see a change in the depth order after Benson/Watson as I believe that Dorsey will show he deserves to be in the third spot unless Leonard is able to show his lack of playing time isn't a hindrance. I don't expect the others listed on the depth chart to make too much of an impact unless they do something unexpected.