For instance, Cedric Benson is having a very below-average season, averaging 3.6 yards/rush through ten games -- including a defeating 3.3 yard/rush average on second downs. In eight of the team's ten games this season, Benson has recorded a yard/rush average less than four yards and against the Colts -- one of the league's worst rushing defenses -- Benson only rushed for 24 yards on 14 carries. According to Football Outsiders, Cedric Benson's DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) is -39, which ranks 35th in the NFL. His -13.1% DVOA (Defensive-adjusted Value Over Average) is ranked 33rd, which means an average running back would perform better than Benson has this year.
Then again, it's not entirely Benson's fault. According to Pro Football Focus' analysis -- based on grading every player on every snap -- Kyle Cook and Andrew Whitworth are the only players on the offensive line that's graded above the average player during running plays, whereas Bobbie Williams, Anthony Collins, Dennis Roland and Nate Livings have impacted runs negatively. In other words, Cook is rated as the league's 13th best run blocking center, whereas Nate Livings is one of the worst run blocking guards in the league. Note: Livings is actually rated as the team's worst run and pass blocker.
The pass blocking is slightly better with guys like Andrew Whitworth and Bobbie Williams easily rated as the team's best pass blockers. Whitworth's pass blocking is rated third in the NFL, with only Atlanta's Tyson Clabo and Miami's Jake Long rated better. Same with Bobbie Williams, ranked third behind Kansas City's Brian Waters and Green Bay's Josh Sitton as the league's best guards in pass protection. Yet, Nate Livings is graded the worst pass blocker at guard; Kyle Cook ranks 29th and Dennis Roland ranks 66th respective to their positions.
Yet, it would be equally foolish to push blame away from Palmer. For instance, Palmer is fairly decent on first and second down passing, recording a passer rating of 85 or better. Yet, on third downs, his completion rate drops below 50 percent with more interceptions than touchdowns and his passer rating drops to 58.2. One could however simply argue that the Bengals often find themselves in third-and-long situations with an effective rushing offense on second downs. Football Outsiders ranks Palmer's 7.7% DVOA as 24th, which is barely better than the average quarterback.
It would be easy to just blame Palmer. It would be easy to just blame Benson. It would be easy to just blame the offensive line. It would be easy to just blame the play-calling. But, if you want to really find someone to blame, pick the last option. All of the above.