Cincinnati Bengals Position Report: Running Backs

US PRESSWIRE

We're taking a moment to examine each position on the Cincinnati Bengals roster and forecasting possible outcomes for free agency and the 2013 NFL Draft.

Signed For 2013: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Daniel Herron, Chris Pressley (FB), John Conner (FB), Jourdan Brooks
Free Agents: Bernard Scott, Brian Leonard, Cedric Peerman (RFA)

It's not like the Cincinnati Bengals want to reinvent the wheel. In fact most of what they do on offense tends to focus on Andy Dalton. Last year it was a heavy dosage of three-step drops, without much use for progressions. Why it worked? Limited work during the offseason, a rookie incorporating an unfamiliar offense required patience and the slow integration of change forced the slow burn of progression. it allowed the rookie quarterback (at the time) to take three steps and fire to a predestined target facing a limited pass rush. It was limited, but effective.

Last year the offense expanded, allowing Dalton to do more which ironically reduced his effectiveness. It wasn't entirely his fault. Dalton faced opposing defenses rolling to A.J. Green while struggling to get into rhythm with a No. 2 receiver and a tight end that might be remembered more for the drops than the plays he made. It also required a running game to relieve pressure on Dalton and the passing offense. Unfortunately, behind Cedric Benson and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, in two years the rushing offense has been mediocre to average. No, seriously.

Bengals Rushing 2011 2012
Yards 1,778 (19th) 1,745 (18th)
Carries 455 (10th) 430 (17th)
Avg. 3.9 (19th) 4.1 (t-18th)
Touchdowns 10 (t-21st) 11 (t-18th)
First Downs 93 (17th) 95 (17th)

Now it's believed that the Bengals want to change all of that, to emerge from the veil of mediocrity and become an effective rushing offense. Marvin Lewis specifically wants to recapture the 2009 squad that generated 2,056 yards rushing, the most Cincinnati has generated since 2000 (2,301 yards). Additionally the Bengals had one of the better running games in the NFL, averaging 1,912 yards from 2003-05 -- that 1,912 number has only been reached once (2009) in a single season since 2005.

Growth in the running game isn't a means to directly win games. It's part of a collection that begins with Andy Dalton, the offensive line, to symbiotically find momentum and sustainability. But they won't do it with just Green-Ellis, who is best utilized as a short-yardage running back. And they won't do it with the current roster of running backs, of which Green-Ellis leads a roster of Daniel Herron and a triumvirate of fullbacks on the current offseason roster.

FREE AGENCY: Unfortunately it's believed that the Cincinnati Bengals won't be heavy buyers in free agency this year, so go ahead and scratch Ahmad Bradshaw and Reggie Bush from your list. Might as well scratch off Rashard Mendenhall, Peyton Hillis, Steven Jackson and Cedric Benson. We do envision a possible scenario that Cincinnati tenders Cedric Peerman and maybe invites Bernard Scott back for another year, but only if the deal that's signed allows the team to terminate the contract without much consequence.

Either way the Bengals will sign a player or two through free agency -- either a new player or one of their own. Why? Despite wanting to pair BenJarvus Green-Ellis with someone, they still need to rebuild the position beyond the second running back.

NFL DRAFT: Though an argument is made against using the first-round pick on a running back, the Cincinnati Bengals are expected to use one of their three selections during the first two rounds on a running back. As for whom, we've done this long enough to suggest that one should allow the predraft process and free agency to clear out before more informed selections can be predicted outside of the first round.

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