WIR: Week in Review.
What a week it was.
We spent time wondering about the Bengals offense, which was only reinforced by Cedric Benson's public airing of his frustrations that, while possibly legit saying that the offense really doesn't have an identity, struggles to hold much water.
Benson's frustration appears to be the lack of an effective rushing offense. The problem is, you could argue that circumstances against New England, dealing with a 31-3 deficit after an opening second half kickoff return for a touchdown, prevented Cincinnati from establishing any type of running game. And against Baltimore, Benson recorded 23 carries for 78 yards rushing. No, Cincinnati didn't hand Benson the rock 34 times like they did in their 17-7 win over Baltimore on November 8, 2009. However, one could argue that circumstances in that game enabled Cincinnati to run the football like they did in that game last year. For one thing, Cincinnati took a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter, enabling the Bengals to control the football for 40 minutes while use Benson to kill the clock, having complete control from start to finish. This year, Cincinnati was scraping by, picking up five field goals to secure a five-point victory. The largest lead in the game was a six point swing when Nugent converted his first two field goals in the second quarter.
While Cincinnati did control the time of possession against the Ravens, Benson and the rushing offense really wasn't effective enough to keep pounding the football. To make matters worse, Benson recorded 13 carries in the second half and barely surfaced above a three-yard/rush average (3.15 yards/rush). Of Benson's three third-and-short (two yards to go or less) attempts this season, he's converted one. If you want to have an identity of a power-rushing offense, you have to justify it by producing. Then again, it's not like Cincinnati has been able to do what they want. They're stuck doing what the defense gives them.
I don't mind if you address a problem with the team publicly after your initial frustrations spoken directly to the team fall on deaf ears, provided you take the bull by the horns and become the solution. But at the same time, you've got to walk the walk. If the rushing offense is lacking, then as the team's feature back, you have to be the one that leads that change, improving upon your 71st-ranked 3.2 yard/rush average. If it's your offensive line, then inspire them like you did last year.
Ultimately, the biggest problem I had in all of this:
When asked if he had talked to Marvin Lewis or Bob Bratkowski about the offense’s direction, Benson said the only person he has talked to is running backs coach Jim Anderson.
I understand the chain of command, channels, whatever. Ultimately Benson went to the media rather than talking with the head coach and offensive coordinator. If you're truly a team leader, you address it with the team, not the media. Why couldn't he talk with Bratkowski? Why couldn't he talk to Lewis?
+ BUT IT'S ABOUT A CONTRACT. Speculation: He wants people to know that he's in a contract year, and he wants to blow the league away with better numbers than 2009. Honestly, without having walked a single step in their shoes, I've grown enough in my old age to finally say that I don't have a problem with players wanting more money in the NFL. Let me clarify: I don't mean players that holdout because the only thing their team gave them was a restricted tender, taking their team hostage. Or a player that holds out for a contract extension, creating a massive distraction and ultimately hurting your team. Leverage is a bitch and I don't like that aspect of the sport.
But when a player is a free agent, I say get as much as you can. And Benson very well could be positioning himself to get a maximum deal after this season. But to get that deal, he has to run, run, run the football. During the team's playoff run last year, Benson averaged 23.2 carries/game. This year, he's four carries short per game from last season's average. Then again, what good are carries when you're averaging 3.2 yards/rush?
If Benson wants to really reflect on things, let's go back a few months when Benson was in negotiations with the Cincinnati Bengals for a contract extension that one beat writer wrote "appears to be on the horizon". One report even suggested that Cincinnati offered a three-year extension worth between $16-20 million. Then within a week, it became known that Benson was charged with assault in late May. The known circumstances were flimsy at best and it truly appeared that in the end, Benson was simply defending himself. Even Roger Goodell, the Zeus of football that casts lightening bolts in the form of suspensions, let Benson off.
While the ordeal basically amounted to nothing, it's quite possible Cincinnati backed off any contract negotiation because of the incident. If true, then Benson, not the Bengals identity, could be the reason his contract year will serve far less coin than he had hoped for next year.
I love Benson. He's the reason we were so successful last year and our success largely resides on his production. He truly has been a professional with the Bengals, despite what we've heard of his lack of maturity in Chicago. Hopefully this all ends with Benson killing the competition in games that the team should win.
+ INJURY UPDATE. Soon after Adam Jones recorded his first interception in four years against Baltimore, he left the game with a shoulder injury. If he can't go against the Carolina Panthers, listed as doubtful, Morgan Trent will work as the team's nickel cornerback.
Our defensive line is also slightly banged up. Along with Jonathan Fanene missing his second game of the season, Antwan Odom (wrist) and Frostee Rucker (toe) are listed as questionable.
+ WEEKEND PREVIEW. Mo previews Cincinnati's game against Carolina this weekend while Friar Bob previews the AFC North matchups this week. Jaxon of Cat Scratch Readers joins us for a quick interview. Here's this week's primer. The game won't have much coverage this week. Check out to see if you're within range.
+ "THE CORNERS HAVE TO TACKLE THIS WEEK". Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and head coach Marvin Lewis have both said that Cincinnati will focus on stopping Carolina's rushing offense first. That includes cornerbacks stepping up and making tackles.
+ EXPENSIVE BACKUP GETS VERSITILE. Former 2009 sixth overall pick Andre Smith is now getting some work as a guard because Lewis wants his backups to be able to play more than one position.
+ UNDER SIEGE? We asked earlier this week if Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer should be "under siege" by fans and the media.