Key To The Offense: Converting More Short-Yardage Situations

"I don't think there's any question we'd love to get back to the run. Whether we'll be successful or not, we'll see. But we're sure going to try."
- Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

When Cedric Benson rushes for over 100 yards, the Bengals are much more likely to win games; though one could argue that it's just the nature of things when it comes to basic football ideology. Good rushing offense and good rushing defense have long been staples for any core philosophy that translates into success; even with a passing dominated era.

But back to the original point. When Cedric Benson rushes for 100 yards rushing or more, the Bengals have a winning percentage of .833 in those games (10 wins and 12 career 100-yard rushing games with Cincinnati). Now Benson's rushing isn't so much an issue as are his sudden propensity to fumble (last year), but more historically, issues the team faces in the red zone when running the football and during short yardage situations. Through 41 career games with Cincinnati, Benson has 15 rushing touchdowns; which averages out to 5.85 rushing touchdowns per 16-game season. Though it makes sense that someone's yard/rush average lowers inside the red zone with compressed defenses, Benson averages 2.3 yards/rush in the redzone with a 1.3 yard/rush inside the opponent's ten yard line. Six of his seven rushing touchdowns were within the ten-yard line, which speaks volumes with his (lack of) explosiveness.

Yet it's not completely Benson's fault that the team struggled in short-yardage situations. According to the advanced statistics of Football Outsiders, the Bengals run blocking ranked 28th in power rushing success -- defined as the "percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. Also includes runs on first-and-goal or second-and-goal from the two-yard line or closer."

Benson has faced 27 situations with third or fourth and short (two yards to go or less) including all downs two yards outside the goalline. During those 27 attempts, Benson converted 15 for a first down or touchdown. And of his seven touchdowns last season, three were within the one-yard line.

We've made this point several times during the offseason. If the Bengals are going to be competitive this year, and god forbid win games, the rushing offense will be tasked with supplementing the team's young passing offense with a sense of veteran consistency. Beautiful as it might be to have Andy Dalton complete four-yard passes to convert third downs, if the Bengals have the ability to convert those same third downs on the ground, it goes a long way to adding much more to this offense.

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