Now that Cedric Benson has returned to the team -- before his one-month vacation imposed by the updated Dreadnought The NFL Goodell, the Cincinnati Bengals roster is largely set through the first three spots on depth chart with Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard filling out their typical scat-back and third-down back roles respectively. There's a good chance Cincinnati could keep a fourth running back and another for the practice squad with a competition between Jay Finley, John Griffin, Cedric Peerman and Jonathan Williams for both spots. But it's also doubtful anyone upsets the balance of the first three spots on the depth chart.
The question we'll look forward to having answered now is how the Bengals will utilize their running backs. During the ten-year Bob Bratkowski system, the team mostly featured one running back. It was Corey Dillon, Rudi Johnson and Cedric Benson (with a dash of two-carry Perry along the way). Traditionally a second back would give the bell-cow, workhorse back a spell for a handful of carries, but that feature back absorbed a majority of the work.
Additionally Cincinnati employed a single-back formation in 54% of their offensive plays in 2010, securing a -3.9% Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average, ranked 16th in the NFL. For those that do not know, DVOA is Football Outsiders primary rating on most of their comparative analyses, which "breaks down every single play of the NFL season to see how much success offensive players achieved in each specific situation compared to the league average in that situation, adjusted for the strength of the opponent."
When Cincinnati invited a fullback on the play, or at the very least a second running back, the team's overall DVOA significantly depreciated to -17.5%; only five teams scored a worse DVOA in two-back formations.
Now we're thinking, could the Bengals break camp, go through the preseason and elect to head into the regular season with no fullbacks? What if Cincinnati needs a fullback in goalline situations?
Despite the fact that Brian Leonard has played fullback at times during his career and despite the fact linebacker Dan Skuta played 14 offensive snaps last season at the same position, my only response really is: Have you not seen Domata Peko?