HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 07: (L-R) Running back Cedric Benson #32 and quarterback Andy Dalton #14 celebrate after Benson scores on a one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter while taking on the Houston Texans in their 2012 AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Reliant Stadium on January 7, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Josh: Did you know that 21.3% of Benson's production in 2011 was against the Cleveland Browns?
Jason: He needs to go
Josh: The entire rushing offense needs revision. I think Benson does have a point, the Bengals didn't take the rushing game seriously. While his complaint was mostly selfish, one has to think that there's a lot of truth to that.
Jason: Well the offensive line didn't do any favors for him but Benson also lacks the ability to make plays on his own and he is completely ineffective in the passing game. The offensive line needs to be fixed but even if it was they need a new running back. His attitude, I think, is a detriment to the team at this point.
Josh: True. But think of it this way. When you identify the running back and offensive line as a problem in the rushing offense, don't you think that it has to do with coaching?
Jason: I think it has to do with coaching as well as the ability of the players on the offensive line. A huge problem is the play of Mike McGlynn/Bobbie Williams/Clint Boling and Nate Livings. I just don't think the Bengals guards, as they are right now, are good enough to be productive.
Josh: I'd be surprised if the team doesn't make every effort to bring Williams back though. He was rated as the team's best rush blocker by Pro Football Focus. Livings and McGlynn can go.
Jason: I wouldn't be surprised either. His age worries me a little but that's trumped by his leadership ability and his locker room presence. I think a one-year deal with him would be fine, but they need a new left guard badly. Re-signing Williams could even be a good thing for Clint Boling. A year to sit behind Williams could be what he needs to get better if that's going to happen.
Josh: Let's not forget about Otis Hudson either. He was listed as the team's backup right guard before injury ended the prospects of playing in 2011.
Jason: Yeah, Hudson could produce as well. I think that Kyle Cook is a good center but his play suffers with two subpar guards on either side of him. In fact, I would go as far to say that having two bad guards hurts Andrew Whitworth's and Andre Smith's production too.
Josh: True. But I have another theory. Cincinnati's passing game offered no threat, besides A.J. Green. Were opposing defenses really that worried about Jerome Simpson, Jermaine Gresham or whomever they put in the slot? Stacking the line, stuffing gaps from a compact defense hurt the Bengals rushing game, all because the Bengals passing game, though infant in many regards in terms of age in the NFL.
Jason: That could have a lot to do with it as well. All I can think about though is the first game against Baltimore. When the Bengals needed to score in the red zone, Andy Dalton had zero time to do anything because the offensive line couldn't stop a three-man rush. That's the kind of thing that needs to be fixed before 2012. I want a 2005-style offensive line again.
Josh: Good luck with that. There were two first rounders, two second rounders and Rich Braham, one of the best centers this team has seen in nearly three decades.
Jason: Yeah. Hopefully the Bengals come to the realization that teams are built from the line out. Plus, I know how you love the linemen.
Josh: What I hate is the team's inability to target their better players. No way they should have ever allowed Nate Livings to replace Evan Mathis in 2009. Anthony Collins is our new Mathis, in terms of being screwed over.
Jason: Yeah, I would love it if they re-signed him but I know it's not going to happen. However, picture this: the Bengals move big Andre to right guard and Collins plays right tackle. I know it will never happen and moving Smith is virtually impossible right now, but it's a sexy idea.
Josh: It's a fun idea to conjure up, no doubt. But it's also an idea that Paul Alexander has shot down dating back to last year. And there's no reason to believe that the transition would be successful in the first place.
Jason: Do you think that Paul Alexander needs the boot?
Josh: That's a loaded question because I don't think he's THE problem with this team's rushing offense. Talent is week at guards, Benson struggled all year to break free and the offense was so focused around Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. And I doubt that the team will give the boot to their assistant head coach, who coached the offensive line to only allowed 25 sacks this year -- despite that most passing plays were three-step drops to get teh football out of Dalton's hands quickly.
Jason: It's something that a lot of people have been calling for. I don't think you can pick the offense's troubles on him either, though.
Josh: If the Bengals listened to fans, they'd be rebuilding this team's coaching staff and personnel after every season.