Tendency Or Suckering Em' In: Jay Gruden And The Bengals First Down Rushing Offense

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 01: Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs over Bernard Pollard #31 of the Baltimore Ravens during their game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Ravens defeated the Bengals 24-16. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)

Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson hasn't necessarily continued receiving support from Bengals fans following his exceptional 2009 season. Since posting a career-high 1,251 yards during Cincinnati's most recent AFC North championship, Benson has failed to reach a four-yard average in either of the previous two seasons, has been charged with multiple assaults and fumbled the football 12 times (losing seven). Benson failed to surpass the 100-yard milestone in ten of the final 11 games this year, generating only one game beyond 110 yards rushing.

But one has to wonder if that's not based on tendency. For all of the criticism hurled at former offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski for running on first down, Jay Gruden appears far more predictable this year. According to the NFL Game Statistics and Information System, the Cincinnati Bengals have called a running play on first and ten 56.83 percent of the time this year.

Additionally the Bengals have run the football on first and ten in the first quarter 62.64 percent of the time, in the red zone at 66.7 percent and when they're down by one score, they've run the football on first and ten at a 56.30 percent clip.

Based on the percentages of the situation, theory suggests that defenses would likely adjust simply based on Cincinnati's tendency to run the football on first and ten.

However the numbers do not necessarily promote that the tendency is having an adverse affect.

According to ESPN's split statistics, the Cincinnati Bengals are averaging 4.2 yards/rush on first and ten. Of the team's five 20-yard-plus runs, four came from first and ten situations. Additionally the Bengals are averaging 4.2 yards/rush on every first down this year, more than second or third downs.

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