Unless Dolphins' running back Ronnie Brown records 119 yards rushing or more during tonight's Monday Night Football game against the New York Jets, Cedric Benson will lead the NFL with 487 yards rushing. He has six more yards than Adrian Peterson, arguably the most talented running back in all of football. Benson leads the NFL with 111 carries, ranks third with 20 first downs and second, behind speedy Chris Johnson, with four 20-yard rushing plays. Benson was the first running back to record 100 yards in 40 games against the Baltimore Ravens defense.
Benson has been very good this year. In fact, Benson's rushing total against the Broncos, Packers, Steelers and Ravens is the most yards rushing allowed by the respective defenses this year. Benson's 76 yards rushing against the Broncos is the most yards allowed to a running back this year against Denver's defense. Benson's 141 yards rushing against the Packers is the most yards allowed to a running back against Green Bay's defense. Benson's 76 yards rushing against the Steelers is the most yards allowed to a running back against Pittsburgh's defense. Benson's 120 yards rushing against the Ravens is the most yards allowed to a running back against Baltimore's defense.
The argument could be, and perhaps should be, made that the rebuilt offensive line is largely to thank. Kyle Cook has been holding his own against opposing nose and defensive tackles. From my non-scientific and non-statistical based point of view, Cook's performances across the board have been very solid. His biggest struggle came against a defensive tackle that many guards and centers struggle against. Cleveland's Shaun Rogers. It also helps that the Bengals have called the Big Packages more this year than I can remember, bringing in backup tackle Dennis Roland to play tight end, or moving Andrew Whitworth to the right side alongside Anthony Collins.
Even though the Bengals have the league leading running back, they're still only ranked ninth in NFL, averaging 126.6 yards-per-game. That's because Benson gets the bulk of the work, accounting for 77% of the Bengals 144 rushing plays. Combined, Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard have 15 rush attempts and 56 yards rushing. Carson Palmer is actually the team's third leading rusher, picking up 42 yards rushing on 12 scrambles.
Benson is on pace for 355 rushing attempts, six rushing attempts shorts of Rudi Johnson's franchise record 361 rushes in 2004.
On one hand, why not keep the train rolling? Benson's performance this year is great and the team's balanced offense is in part why they're doing so well. On the other hand, the Bengals run the risk of wearing Benson down as the season progresses, especially in December. Here's your question of the day. Should the Bengals keep going the way they're going? Or should they start thinking of relieving Benson more, giving Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard more playing time to make sure Benson is fresher towards the end of the season?