CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 24: Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals fumbles the football after being hit by Calais Campbell #93 of the Arizona Cardinals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Cardinals 23-16. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson isn't have a terrible year. His 3.9 yard/rush average is the second-highest during his career in Cincinnati and he's one touchdown away from reaching a career-high seven touchdowns in a season -- which is roughly fifth alternate Pro Bowl material. However when I say Benson isn't having a terrible year, I'm not implying that he's having a good season by any means. And the Bengals coaching staff seems to be hinting that they're close to shutting Benson down.
Benson has only broken the 100-yard rushing barrier once during Cincinnati's previous ten games. Save for his 106-yard performance against the Cleveland Browns, Benson previous 100-yard outing was against the Buffalo Bills in week four, nearly three months ago. A recent 92-yard first half performance against the Houston Texans was promising, if not for a -1 yard second half showing. The only time Benson has surpassed the impossible milestone of over 110 yards rushing during a game was the regular season opener against the Cleveland Browns. Though his production has completely lacked this season, he hasn't put Cincinnati in immediate danger and the Bengals offense has succeeded in spite of Benson's poor production.
In his previous two games, Benson has fumbled the football five times, including two lost against the Cardinals that helped Arizona shift a comfortable Bengals lead into a nail-biter at the end.
Bengals offensive coordinator hinted that the team may have used up their patience with Benson, according to Paul Dehner Jr. of CBSSports.com's Rapid Reports.
"We're married to him right now," Gruden said. "Hopefully it doesn't affect him, but hopefully he does understand the importance of protecting it because I know it's something (head coach Marvin Lewis) won't put up with.
Gruden did caution that Benson can't worry about ball security anymore than normal, considering that Benson didn't fumble the football until his 227th carry of the season. If Cincinnati's feature back worries more about ball security, he'll worry less about production and at the rate Benson has produced this year, it's a luxury Cincinnati can't afford to lose at this point.
"You do what you did all week, and don’t get out there and try to be Superman," he said. "When the opportunity presents itself to make a play, make the play and don’t try to make any plays that aren’t there."
Now that's the winning spirit.