Tonight the Cincinnati Bengals host the Carolina Panthers as part of the third week of the NFL's preseason schedule. The Panthers will be looking for their second preseason win and the Bengals will be trying to win their first. The game starts at 7 p.m. and will be aired locally on WKRC (12) on tape delay at 11:55 p.m. (because the game won't sell out and will be blacked out). If you live outside of Cincinnati, here is a TV distribution map for tonight's game.
Today, before the game, we'll be writing up a series of game previews. The following is a preview of.....
Bengals Running Game Vs. Panthers Front Seven
Perhaps the strongest aspect of the Bengals' first-string offense will be the ability to run the ball. The offensive line is stronger in run blocking than in pass protection and Benson runs the ball between the tackles like a battering ram. Against the Lions, Benson ran the ball six times for 37 yards (6.2 ypc). The next week, against the Jets, Benson ran the ball seven times, but only for 14 yards.
The Panthers front seven had trouble stopping the run last season. They allowed 123.8 rushing yards per game in 2010, placing them in the 10 worst rush defenses in the league. So far this preseason, they haven't been much better, giving up an average of 122.5 rushing yards per game. The Panthers signed defensive tackle Ron Edwards in the offseason to help them address their knack for allowing running backs to run right through their defense but Edwards suffered a torn triceps muscle and will likely be out for the season. The two defensive tackles on the top of the depth chart are Sione Fua, a rookie, and Corvey Irwin, a second year player who has spent the majority of his time in the NFL on the practice squad or on injured reserve.
So, don't be surprised if the Bengals find that they're able to run the ball with Benson between the tackles. If they can do that successfully for a little while, they may draw the defense in and then rookie Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton could have an easier time finding his wide receivers down field.