Bowen: Cedric Benson Is The Key For The Bengals Offense

Things happen around here in segments. Sometimes one player is indirectly featured throughout a week, like Andrew Whitworth has been in recent weeks, Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton in the weeks before that. It's not premeditated; it just happens that way. And for over eight years of blogging the Cincinnati Bengals, I've learned not to fight it. Sometimes it seems like there's an overwhelming amount of coverage on a certain player, but that's just how it goes.

Case in point. Cedric Benson. This week we've talked about his broken tackle rate of 8.6%, how he wants to return, become a leader and trying to explain where his 8.6% ranks. That's what we do. We opine about something, then counter it in some form to bring all arguments to the table. Sometimes we do that in the span of weeks, even months and sometimes its within a day or so. We just go with it.

But since we're on this Benson kick already, National Football Posts' Matt Bowen, a seven-year safety in the NFL, writes that Benson will actually be the key to the Bengals new offense in 2011.

Why?

Because if he returns, he would be the one constant amongst all of the personnel turnover, especially at the skill positions.

Young and inexperienced QB and WR? That takes time to develop on the field, but when you can run the football with production, your offense can operate and put together drives.

The question, however, comes down to his production. Based on his 2009 season, this point of view is dead on. Based on 2010, there's concerns that float in the back of your mind, isn't there? Benson's 3.5 yard/rush average hovers around a career-low 3.4 yard/rush in 2007. His 26-yard run against the Buffalo Bills was the longest of the season; which is actually his lowest long run of any season. Rushing for 100 yards fell from a franchise record six games in 2009 to only three games in 2010. And then there's the seven fumbles, five of which were lost, often during crucial moments in games.

There's reasons for it, sure. The Bengals were often playing from behind, forcing the offense to pass the football, thus preventing Benson from establishing rhythm. And we're not just talking about overall carries. In six of his 13 games (46%) in 2009, Benson ran the football less than 20 times. He ran the football less than 20 times in seven of his 16 games (44%) in 2010.

Yet he averaged over three more attempts per game in 2009. Why? In six games during the team's 2009 campaign, Benson rushed the football 25 times or more. In 2010, that number fell to three. Three times Benson rushed the football 30 times or more in 2009. In 2010, that number falls to one. Rhythm.

Bowen is right. The Bengals will need consistency with their rushing offense. Whether that's a free agent signing or Benson, they need to relieve pressure on the passing offense. It just so happens that Benson appears to be the most likely candidate in 2011.

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