Benson Suspension: Blessing in Disguise?

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 16: Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium on October 16, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals won 27-17. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Cedric Benson won't be making the trip to Seattle when the Bengals take on the Seahawks in Week 8 of the 2011 NFL season. He'll be serving a one-game suspension for an offseason assault charge filed against him while he was in Texas. The suspension was originally for three games but after Benson's appeal was heard, it was reduced for one.

This is good news for the Bengals -- not because Benson's three-game suspension has been reduced but because the Bengals can try some other options in the running game.

The power running game with Cedric Benson isn't working. Through six games, Benson had an average yards per carry that was greater than four yards only twice (against the Browns it was 4.8 YPC and against the Bills it was 5.5 YPC). His highest yards per carry average in a game other than the games against the Browns and Bills was only 3.8 and in Jacksonville he only averaged 2.2 yards per carry.

Excuses have been made for Benson from the offensive line didn't play well enough to the game plan just wasn't good enough, but Benson has to share in some of the blame. He has been unimpressive so far this season. He hasn't been able to shed tackles, he looks slow and the guy who carried the Bengals in 2009 just isn't there anymore.

A team with a rookie quarterback needs a good running game to back him up. Blaine Gabbert needs Maurice Jones-Drew, Christian Ponder will need Adrian Peterson, Jake Locker, had he been the starter at this point, would need Chris Johnson and Cam Newton needs..... well Cam Newton is a freak. Andy Dalton needs a running game if the Bengals want to continue their early-season success.

During Benson's one-game suspension, maybe the Bengals will try a running back by committee approach featuring Bernard Scott, Cedric Peerman and Brian Leonard that works better than letting Benson run for two yards per carry. Maybe Peerman will step up and show Bengals fans why the front office decided to keep him around as the team's fourth back. Who knows what will happen, but if the Bengals figure out a way to make their running game work in the absence of Cedric Benson, maybe they'll be able to keep it working when Benson gets back.

Either way, something needs to change. When the Bengals get off their bye week they'll go to Seattle where it's extremely tough to win, then they'll play the Titans, who leading the AFC South, in Tennessee and then they go on a four-game AFC North streak. They'll need a run game to help them get through those games with more wins than losses and if the Bengals can figure something out that works better than Benson when he's suspended, the Bengals will be better off in the long run.

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