[Editor's note: Chris also ran a feature about Cedric Benson on his other blog, Intentional Foul. We have an open relationship. Even though I tend to be the jealous type, I gave my consent that Chris can write for another blog. It hurts sometimes, but aside from sleepless nights, I'm getting through alright.]
So one of the primary storylines this season on the offensive side of the ball is Carson Palmer. Is he back? Is he good? Should we think about replacing him? Blah. Blah. Blah. If there's one stat that shows Palmer is going to be alright, once he gets a season-worth of rust off his rehabilitated elbow, is that in two of the three games this year, he led the offense to a last minute touchdown drive to take the lead. What else could you want? Is the offensive line going to hold things together or will they breakdown? The defense has been a story of high interest this year too; only because our new-found understanding that defense means more than guys accidentally getting in the way of the opposing offense.
However, there is another aspect of this team that's immensely improved. In fact, let me say it with a ballroom echo where my voice sounds godly. Through three games this season, Benson is recording one of the best starts of any primary running back in the past 11 seasons. Not even Corey Dillon has come close to the numbers that Benson is putting up to start the season.
The only season in which someone put up better numbers to start the season was 2005, when Rudi Johnson recorded more yards (300) and touchdowns (3). Only twice have Bengals running backs recorded a better average than four-yards-per-rush or better in the previous ten seasons. In 2009, Benson is shattering that, averaging 4.44 yards-per-rush.
I'm fully aware that stats like this are meaningless through three games. Perhaps I'm simply taking advantage of your optimism to spill additional happy-joy feelings for at least a week. I'm a prick like that.
However, for those of you that dig stats and want more of it, this is another piece of evidence that shows the Bengals offensive line is better than last year, if not the best we've seen since the 2005 group of young Levi Jones, Pro Bowler Willie Anderson, versatile Eric Steinback, Bobbie Williams and the guy that every Bengals fan loved that no one else knew about, Richie Braham.
Are Anthony Collins, Andrew Whitworth, Kyle Cook, Evan Mathis, Nate Livings, Dennis Roland and Bobbie Williams as good as that group? Hell no. Are they serviceable to the point that your concerns about the offensive line is starting to fade, game by game? Hell yes. All the while first round pick Andre Smith is working to get back on the field with a busted foot and a lengthy negotiation process that pushed back his progression. Even when he's introduced to the field in the NFL, the Bengals won't incorporate an offensive line as good as that 2005 unit. On the other hand, the team's depth with this squad is very impressive.
Right now, Benson is on pace to record 1,562 yards rushing, which would be over 100 yards better than Rudi Johnson's 1,458 yards rushing record set in 2005.