This was a question I first pondered when the Bengals hired Jay Gruden as their offensive coordinator, and after 4 games I find myself still wondering, especially with what I saw at the end of the Bengals Bills game. When Gruden came on and began talking about using a hybrid West Coast offense, I remember contemplating if Benson would be the best choice at running back. I actually have liked Benson with the Bengals, but he's a power runner, with only so so hands. On the other hand over the last two years we have seen Leonard make great catch after great catch, and be able to churn out yards after the catch. With both things in-mind I had to question, whether Leonard might not be a better option for this team going forward?
From what I have seen over the years, West Coast offenses work best with a running back that can catch the ball, and on our team the best receiver out of the back field is far and away Brian Leonard. Leonard has shown that he can run the ball, and who does'nt believe that he is the best reciever out of all our running backs. I understand that Leonard will never be a threat to go the distance any time he touches the ball a la Chris Johnson, nor the power back that Adrian Peterson is, but is that what the Bengal's really need right now?
Yes, yes, I know no one would turn down either of those players, but there just is not that many guys like that out there. I think it would be better to have a guy that you can count on to get 4 yards when the team needs 3, who can be an outlet receiver when all else is covered, and can stay in and block when the team goes max protection. And really how much would the team be losing giving Leonard carries over Benson? Is Benson that much better runner than Leonard? I think we can say that Leonard is that much better receiver.
When the San Francisco 49rs were riding the West Coast Offense to a dynasty they had a great receiving threat in
Roger Craig. He was the ultimate in dual threat, and while I don't know Brian Leonard can ever be as good as
Craig, I do believe he is the most similar in playing style. For those who might not remember, Craig was elected to the Pro Bowl at both fullback and halfback. We all know that Brian Leonard isn't going to win any foot races, but he has shown that he can make runs of 10-20 yards when he hits the hole.
In addition Benson just does not seem to be the right fit in this offense. While he has had two 100 yard games, I have not thought he looked comfortable in this offense in any of the games. Too often he seems tentative as he approaches the line, and he gets stuffed. I really think this has been a big reason for the team having trouble with third downs.
What if instead of Benson, the Bengals started Brian Leonard, and kept Scott as the third down back? This way Dalton would have another weapon to throw to, Gruden would be able to utilize the screen more, and the Bengals would have a more punishing runner. In addition Scott would be able to get more touches because he would both beable to sub in for Leonard and get the bulk of third down plays. I think this would help Scott better understand his role, and would definitly make him a change of pace backs.