In 2009, Jeremi Johnson lined up in front of Benson as the team's fullback for the majority of Benson's 13 starts as the team's running back. That year, Benson not only ran for 1,251 yards, but he almost single handedly led the Bengals offense to the playoffs.
In 2010, Jeremi Johnson was gone and was replaced by nobody. Occasionally tight ends Reggie Kelly or Jermaine Gresham lined up in the fullback position. That year, Benson still ran for over 1,000 yards but his yards per carry average nose dived to 3.5 YPC and the team, still without a legitimate passing game, went 4-12.
I don't want to say that the absence of a full back kept the Bengals from having a successful 2010 season because we all know that there were many more problems than that. However, I will go out on a limb and say that not having a fullback didn't help at all.
When the Bengals released their 2011 depth chart a couple of days ago, they listed Chris Pressley as the team's No. 1 fullback. This is good news for the entire offense. Not only does Benson get to run behind somebody who weighs 256 pounds, but the tight ends will be free to do what tight ends are supposed to do.
Plus, it looks like the tight ends are going to have help from fullback Chris Pressley, emerging as the club's first true battering ram of a fullback since the early Jeremi Johnson era.
Battering ram. I like it.
This is what Gruden's new West Coast offense needs if it's going to be successful in 2011. The running game not only needs to be successful but it will likely need to be the backbone of an offense being run by a rookie quarterback. When the defense decides they've had enough of being run over by the Pressley-Benson semi-truck, and they start to creep up into the box, Gruden will start throwing in passing plays.
It's amazing how one guy in one position can make a big difference. It's just one of the reasons that football is the greatest sport in the world.