BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 20: Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates his team's only first half touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens lead the Bengals 14-7 at the half. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Good ol' Cedric Benson saves the day in 2008, replacing the oft-injured, readily-ineffective and fumble-happy Chris Perry by averaging 3.5 yards/rush on 214 carries in 12 games that year. 3.5 yard/rush average saves the day, huh? Trust me. Chris Perry was averaging 2.6 yards/rush on 104 attempts, having lost three of five fumbles, often at the worst time during Cincinnati's 0-8 start that season. Despite Cincinnati's eight-game losing streak to start the season, the Bengals managed a 4-5-1 record during games that Benson started. He wasn't a savior, but there's such a thing as stability, which he invited that season.
Benson followed that campaign with a career-year in yards rushing (1,251), touchdowns (7) and average (4.2) -- thanks to an offensive reorganization (adios, Eric Ghiaciuc) and an emphasis to be a run-first offense. He fumbled once during Cincinnati's playoff run that plowed through the AFC North, yet Cincinnati recovered the football. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that Benson's 96.2 yards rushing per game average was a significant reason for the Bengals playoff season in 2009.
Then it started breaking apart. Cincinnati wanted to throw the football move, acquiring Terrell Owens after the disastrous Antonio Bryant signing, trying to accommodate two boisterous wide receivers in Owens and Chad Ochocinco. Cedric Benson complained about the offensive vision and months later the team replaced offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski with Jay Gruden. Benson wasn't happy about that either. And after that 2009 season, Cedric Benson was charged with multiple assaults, while overall production steadily decreased.
Benson's contract expired in early March and Cincinnati signed running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to a three-year deal, closing the chapter on Benson's Bengals career. Bengals.com writer Geoff Hobson reached out to Benson.
"I figured that meant I probably wouldn't be going back to Cincinnati. There are no hard feelings. I loved my time there. I can't thank the fans enough for the way they supported me," Benson said of the BJGE signing. "I'm so forever grateful for the recommendation that I think came out of Chicago and for Marvin (Lewis) believing in me and for the Brown family for giving me a chance."
Now that his Bengals career is over, while we're entering the "committee" philosophy, it would be a disservice not to point out Benson's 4,176 yards rushing ranks fifth in franchise history, surpassing Harold Green last season. Not bad.