Bengals 2012 Training Camp Position Preview: Running Backs & Fullbacks Pt. II

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 12: Dan Herron #34 of the Cincinnati Bengals works out during a rookie minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium on May 12, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bernard Scott, Brian Leonard, and Cedric Peerman were covered part one of the running back and fullback preview. Here is part two.

The team drafted former Buckeye Dan Herron in the sixth round of this year's draft, and he figures to push Peerman for that final running back spot. This February, the team signed free agent Aaron Brown, who had been with the Detroit Lions since being drafted in the 6th round in 2009, and has a very outside chance of making the team. Finally, undrafted player Jourdan Brooks was a running back in college, but his size and blocking prowess may mean he is better suited at full back. He is listed at both positions on the team's site.

At fullback, Chris Pressley fared well as the team's starting full back in 2011, and it will take a lot to budge him from the starting spot. James Develin has been on the team's practice squad for almost a year and a half, and he'll probably land there again.

Here we go!

Chris Pressley

2011 Stats Carries Yards AVG Touchdowns Receptions Rec Yards

0 0 0.0 0 3 19

Fullback Chris Pressley has been the team's starting fullback since he rejoined the team late in the 2010 season. Pressley first began with the team as a college free agent in 2009, and his battle with Fui Vakapana for the team's fullback spot was chronicled in Hard Knocks. Pressley was easy to root for, as the smart, hard worker who was also a family man, but neither he nor Vakapuna made the final roster in early September. Jeremi Johnson ended up reclaiming the starting fullback spot, while Pressley was signed to the Bengals practice squad.

Pressley was signed off the Bengals practice squad by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who held on to Pressley for almost exactly a year. The Bengals had gone most of 2010 without a fullback, and chose to bring back Pressley for the final four games of 2010. He's held the fullback spot ever since then, because he simply gets his job done.

Looking back over the tape from 2011, it's hard to find many blocks that Pressley has missed. At 5-11, 260 pounds, this bowling ball of a man stops at nothing to crush defenders into the ground. He has a nice balance of controlled aggression, and can consistently find a defender, and take him out of the play.

For the future, there may be a few technical tweaks here and there, but it's hard to find a major flaw in Pressley's game. He doesn't have great speed in passing routes, but he has good enough hands. He's the most consistent fullback the Bengals have brought in since Jeremi Johnson, and he'll probably earn a spot on the team again. The Bengals used him on 66 passing plays last year, but Dalton only threw to him four times. It's rare to see Pressley with the ball in his hands, and that's fine by me. Just let him do his thing- plow defenders into the ground.

2012 Projections: 1 carry, 2 yards, 2.0 yards/carry, 1 touchdown, 5 receptions, 30 yards

Dan "Boom" Herron

2011 Stats Carries Yards AVG Touchdowns Receptions Rec Yards
College - 7 games 134 675 5.0 3 8 34

Dan Herron is regarded as a great team player and hard worker. He's got a great work ethic and he's very willing to play special teams or whatever the coaches ask him to do. He's a good runner, but not a great one. Nothing really stands out as 'special' when you watch Boom run the ball. He caught 44 passes in college, and looked pretty smooth while doing it, but he's not been tested much as a pass protector.

With BenJarvus Green-Ellis locked in as one of the main ballcarriers, and Brian Leonard probably locked in as the team's third down running back, Boom will be fighting to beat out either one of two people in training camp. He either needs to prove that he is a better running back than Bernard Scott, or can provide more all around than Cedric Peerman. The Bengals have never carried more than 4 running backs, and that 4th player is really only used on special teams. With Peerman's track record as one of the best special teams players in the NFL, it's going to be tough for Boom to surpass Peerman on special teams.

As a runner, he has great lateral movement and good acceleration, but doesn't have great top end speed. He has the strength to run through arm tackles and bounce off college players, but scouts have doubts about that running style transferring to the NFL. He's only 5-10, 205 pounds. His vision is okay, but he generally succeeded in high school and college by accelerating quickly through the hole, using his stiff arm well, and breaking arm tackles. All in all, nothing really stands out.

I think the true position battle will come down to him versus Bernard Scott. Herron's biggest advantage is that he doesn't go down as easily as Scott, and probably has a slight edge as a pass catcher and pass protector. But, Scott has the experience, having been coached by Jim Anderson for three years now, and is a little bit quicker.

Can Boom prove he is a better running back than Scott, or prove that he can help the team more than Cedric Peerman? It will be an interesting battle for sure.

2012 Projection: Waived, or practice squad player.

Aaron Brown

2011 Stats Carries Yards AVG Touchdowns Receptions Rec Yards

1 0 0.0 3 1 9

Brown was signed by the Bengals on February 17, 2012, when things looked good for him. BenJarvus Green-Ellis hadn't been signed, and Boom Herron hadn't been drafted yet. Now, this veteran back is the odd man out here, and many have crossed this man off their prediction lists already.

He was a 6th round draft pick for the Detroit Lions, and he played with Andy Dalton for two seasons down at TCU. Both players are actually from the same town, Katy, Texas, but went to different high schools. Brown was did it all in college, rushing for 2596 yards and had 857 receiving yards. He did well as a rookie with the Lions, rushing for 4.9 yards/carry, and breaking off a long reception for a touchdown. He's fallen off the map since then though, and only rushed for 3.2 yards/carry since. Even with all the injuries that the Lions suffered at running back last year (Mikel LeShoure, Jahvid Best, Kevin Smith), Brown only received one carry.

I watched a little tape from his time with the Lions and he's a very mediocre back. He can catch the ball well, but is too small too protect the quarterback and seems to only get what is blocked for him in the running game.

2012 Projection: Waived.

Jourdan Brooks

2011 Stats Carries Yards AVG Touchdowns Receptions Rec Yards
College - 10 games 70 248 3.5 3 3 24

Jourdan Brooks is easily one of the most intriguing players on the roster right now. But, I can't talk about Brooks without mentioning an article by Cincy Jungle's Oregonbengalsfan, who dedicated a fan post to the mystery of Jourdan Brooks about a month ago. He brings up a great point about Brooks versatility when he says, "You could put him in the game and have him run it, have him block, or have him catch it out of the backfield, and you aren’t broadcasting what play you are running." Brooks was a running back in college, but he was projected as a fullback by some scouts due to his excellent blocking skills and lack of production in the last two years. He was listed as a fullback on Bengals.com for a while, but has now received the RB/FB label.

Brooks didn't even play football until he was a junior in high school. He had been switched around as a defensive end, linebacker, and fullback, then was converted to a running back at Rutgers. At, 6'0"-6'1", 230-240 pounds, his size has always been his biggest advantage. He uses that size well as a blocker, rarely losing leverage, and well as a running back, driving defenders backwards for first downs or touchdowns. He was used at Rutgers' goal line back in 2008 and 2009. And it seems that he catches the ball out of the backfield too, but he wasn't asked to do much.

For a little history on Brooks, he attended Rutgers for three years, redshirting in his first year while Ray Rice was still in town, and some believed he would be Rice's heir apparent. He had a successful freshman season, gaining 516 yards on the ground with a 5.2 average and was used as the goal line back, with 6 touchdowns. In his second year, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano refused to give Brooks the football, only giving him 60 carries in the entire season, despite holding a 4.7 average yards per carry and once rushing for 124 yards and three touchdowns in one game. Mohamed Sanu even had more attempts than Brooks, while running the wildcat. So Brooks transferred to another school in search of a starting job. While at Rutgers, he Rutgers media member said that "showed glimpses of being a between-the-tackles Rutgers craved yet proved mostly inconsistent the past two seasons". Brooks struggled to find a school that wanted him, so he chose Morgan State, which was his dad's alma mater and located close to his hometown. But, he fell off the map at Morgan State. He ran very poorly in 2010, with 99 carries for 216 yards (2.3 average) and no touchdowns. In 2011, he improved, but was still only the team's third leading rusher. He had 70 carries for 248 yards with three touchdowns that year, his final year in college. He was never able to build upon what he flashed at Rutgers.

2012 came around, and Brooks wasn't drafted. In fact, no NFL team even sniffed at Brooks. The Bengals were the only team to even invite him to try out. He impressed the Bengals enough during his try out (safety Tony Dye and linebacker Emmanuel Lamur also made the team through try outs), and is now one of the most interesting players on the current 85-man roster.

As a running carrier in the NFL, it seems that he has a lot to learn. It's impossible to find any film of Brooks at Morgan State to see what went wrong, but one can gain from the statistics that he needs to improve upon his consistency. He already has the size, speed, and blocking abilty, so it's hard to figure out why he was rarely on the field in college. Vision, using his size properly, agility, balance, and football IQ may all be culprits here, but that's purely guesswork.

Finally, in the least realm of being a good NFL running back, he's looked adequate catching the ball for the Bengals during OTAs, but he only had 5 receptions in college.

Jourdan Brooks is a definite player to watch in training camp and the preseason, with no overwhelming talents in the Bengals' running back corps. His size and blocking ability are his best traits, but can he improve as a ball carrier and pass catcher? Not only will he need to do that, he will also need to prove his worth as a special teams player, before the team has any thoughts about moving him up to the final 53.

2012 Projection: Waived, or practice squad player

James Develin

2011 Stats Carries Yards AVG Touchdowns Receptions Rec Yards
(Practice Squad Player) 0 0 0 0 0 0

When you see James Develin practicing with the other running backs and fullbacks, the first thing you think is that he is a tall man. Develin, at 6'5", 251 pounds, was a defensive end for Brown University, until switching to fullback when he reached the UFL.

He played full back for current Bengals' offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's Florida Tuskers. They lost the UFL Championship game in late November, but Develn's season wasn't over. The Bengals signed him to the practice squad during the last 5 games of the 2010 season.

In 2011 training camp, Chris Pressley beat Develin out for the starting full back job, and Develin remained on the practice squad for the entire 2011 season. Chris Pressley appears to be locked into the starting fullback spot at this point, so Develin's future with the Bengals is uncertain.

He has the size and exceptional strength (46 poor-technique bench press reps in this video, 39 at his pro day) to be a great blocker, but not a lot of real game experience as a full back. He was voted the best defensive end in the Ivy League in 2009 with 14 tackles for loss and 5 sacks, so I'd say he's got great acceleration and burst from a stance. In this highlight video, he chases down a lot of players from behind, so he at least has above average top end speed. Overall, he's got the physical tools to be an effective full back one day, but he needs to get the reps down to improve his hands as a pass catcher and his vision as a full back. An interesting project for sure. Pressley is by far the better full back right now, but Develin's athleticism presents greater upside.

The practice squad rules are tricky, but it appears that Develin is ready for the practice squad again. He might have to beat out Dan Herron and/or Jourdan Brooks though, I can't see all three backfield players on one 8-man practice squad.

2012 Projection: Waived, or practice squad player.

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