Cincinnati has a plan. Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis believes that a powerful running game gives him an advantage in the AFC North. It's old school in a way for a division was once run-oriented that's slowly transformed into a pass-first division with quarterbacks like Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger and Baltimore's Joe Flacco respectively.
Unfortunately the Bengals aren't stocked with a collection of productive parts right now. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is the team's only running back signed in 2013 with reasonable expectations to contribute next season, though Cedric Peerman is expected back as a restricted free agent.
Joe Reedy with the Cincinnati Enquirer argues that the Bengals should address running back during the 2013 NFL draft with a speed/scat back to compliment the tough down-hill style of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and there's enough to incoming talent to appease the need.
This year’s class of backs doesn’t have a dynamic Top 10 prospect like Trent Richardson last year, but there are some guys who are projected as second- to fourth-round picks who could be solid.
“There are a lot of interesting guys in the draft. There are some guys that can move the pile like Green-Ellis. There are some Darren Sproles types,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said.
How much of a need is running back compared to the other positions? That will largely be determined during free agency, where positions like safety and linebacker could be addressed, as well as offensive tackle, which is close to being a need with the aging Andrew Whitworth and soon-to-be free agent Andre Smith.
Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden believes that Green-Ellis is cool with it.
"BenJarvus would probably welcome it," Gruden said of a change-up guy. "It takes some carries off of him. Some guys want the ball every single play, but some guys like to get that rest and come out and have that change of pace guy. It would be nice. Cedric Peerman proved he could possibly be that guy. He had some big runs against Oakland and other teams. Maybe he'll step up in that role next year."
But with Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard free agents, Gruden says "you need three or four backs to be effective." And he's not saying one has to be a speed guy.
“You need two good backs you can count on. Like quarterback, you are one heartbeat away from them carrying it every time," Gruden said. "You don’t want two little scatback guys, you want two that can carry it between the tackles and one who can carry it on third down. If you think Brian Leonard and B-Scott are both free agents and you can’t re-sign either one then that is two holes we have to fill.”