Cedric Benson Needs To Become A Greater Factor For Cincinnati's Playoff Push

BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 20: Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates his team's only first half touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens lead the Bengals 14-7 at the half. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

During his second season with the Bengals in 2009, Benson generated a career-high 1,251 yards rushing on 301 carries, averaging 96.2 yards/game which ranked second to Chris Johnson, who rushed for over 2,000 yards that season. Largely the result of differing factors, such as a team-emphasis to run the football more along with having a natural fullback in the backfield, Benson's production wasn't just the result of his own abilities -- two other running backs posted 100-yard rushing games during that same season. Those same ideals were abandoned the following year with an itching desire to give Carson Palmer more weapons in the passing game, forcing Palmer to throw the football a career-high 586 times. Granted the Bengals were often playing from behind, but truth be told, they didn't play that far from behind to abandon the running game. Frankly the rushing offense was as effective in 2010 as it was in 2009.

Yet even though this team is working hard at a greater balance between the ground and air, the Bengals have thrown 54% of the time this season. That's lower than 2010 (56.4%), but higher than 2009 where the offense threw the football 47.2% of the time.

Cedric Benson through nine games the last three seasons
2011 167 634 3.8 4
2010 175 623 3.6 3
2009 205 859 4.2 6

Even so the Bengals rushing offense continues seeing eight-man fronts with Benson saying, if he had more room on the line of scrimmage with less defenders, "It would be a field day, all day."

But since his 39-yard run against the Cleveland Browns during the regular season opener, Benson has posted one run greater than 16 yards once.

"We don’t do what we did in the past to be put in those situations more than once or a couple times in a game," Benson said. "As a result of that, you are going to get lesser long runs."

Now the Rapid Reports posting cites the team's offensive scheme for limiting his long runs this year. Truth is we're not exactly sure what Benson means, other than the team's struggles in the second quarter where the team is barely averaging more than a field goal, outscored by nearly 50 points during the season.

Regardless Benson's struggles have been persistent this year. Only surpassing 100 yards rushing twice this year, Benson has recorded a yard/rush average below four yards in half his games this season. Additionally Benson doubled his touchdowns this season after a two-touchdown performance against the Baltimore Ravens.

We maintain this much. If the Bengals are going to continue making a push to the playoffs, they will need Benson to step up in a greater role as an effective feature back.

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