I wrote an article a few weeks ago concerning the running back competition stating that the top two, Cedric Benson and Kenny Watson were set unless something unexpected happen. Well it did with the surprising release of Watson earlier this preseason leaving the backup spot wide open to the survivors. With one preseason game left, that spot does not look too be settled with 4 players looking to fill two to three spots.
The current depth chart shows Brian Leonard in the second spot with DeDe Dorsey third behind Benson. James Johnson and Bernard Scott are currently looking to knock both out of those spots. Currently, Scott has had a better preseason then everyone leading the team in rushing at 90 yards on 19 attempts averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Scott also has one catch for 12 yards. He has shown good speed to the outside and not afraid to stick his nose into the line. Dorsey, however, is just 3 yards behind Scott with 87 yards rushing on only 11 attempts but carries a whopping 7.9 yards per carry average including a 45 yard run. He has breakaway speed to the outside which should be a good compliment to Benson's inside running ability. His current yards per carry average are in line with his career average of 8.7 yards per carry.
Leonard, listed second on the depth chart, has a total of 50 yards rushing on 17 carries equaling a 2.9 yard average, lowest on the team. But unlike the other running backs, he has a touchdown. Leonard is known more for being able to catch the ball coming out of the back field for which he has 2 this preseason for 35 yards, equating to a 17.5 yard average per catch. However, one of his catches went for 25 yards which maybe inflating this stat. Johnson has not been fairing much better as he has 47 rushing yards on 12 attempts for a 3.9 yard average.
So where does this leave the Bengals running back situation? Thursday is the day that will determine who will be left standing. I am sure all will see a good amount of playing time as the coaches try to determine who will follow Benson. A dropped pass here, or a fumble there could spell the end of someone's career with the Bengals. So here is how I see it playing out.
If the Bengals decide to carry 3 running backs the ones who should, and I said should, be left standing are DeDe Dorsey and Bernard Scott. Both have shown speed that could lead to potential problems for defenses whether coming out of the back field to catch a pass or running the sweep. Now if the Bengals are solely looking to keep someone who can catch the ball out of the backfield and block, then expect to see Leonard take Dorsey's spot as Scott is younger and probably a little cheaper, which I feel would be a mistake since Leonard doesn't appear to have the speed necessary for additional yardage when taking the hand off. If the Bengals decide to carry 4 running backs, I would fully expect them to keep Leonard. Unfortunately, Johnson is the odd man out in both scenarios.
As you may see, the game against the Indianapolis Colts tomorrow will have big implications on the running back position. No one really knows what the coaching staff is thinking concerning roster spots and how many they may carry for the season at that position. If any of those vying for a spot as a running back think they have solidified their spot, Saturday will be the day to verify that feeling.