As Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has routinely pounded (irony in our choice of words no-doubt), the Cincinnati Bengals plan to orchestrate a run-heavy offensive philosophy this year. The reasoning, if anything, is to lift unnecessary pressure from Andy Dalton's shoulders and, frankly, even with the weapons this team has, it's still suited for the running game (evidence: Bengals pass protection).
Football Outsiders points out that of the "12 quarterbacks who started 10 or more games in their rookie season", the teams with the best winning percentage were "highly dependent on the quality of their run offense." Unfortunately this might not be a good thing for the Bengals.
After re-signing center Ryan Cook, left guard Nate Livings, right tackle Dennis Roland, and running back Cedric Benson, the Bengals enter 2011 with the same run offense contributors as they had in 2010. Continuity is usually a good thing. In Cincinnati's case, however, they're continuing with players who produced the NFL's fourth-worst run offense last season, most of the blame for which falls on Benson. Out of 23 running backs who carried the ball more than 200 times in 2010, Benson was next-to-last in DYAR. Furthermore, except for 2009, he's ranked no higher than 42nd in DYAR among all qualifying backs over the past four seasons.
Truth be told we're not expecting the Bengals to produce many wins this year, mostly as a result of the many reasons we've chronicled on this site -- new offensive philosophy, coordinator, new personnel at the skill positions; quite frankly because the rushing offense last year wasn't particularly very good.
At the same time we have to believe that Cincinnati's ineffectual rushing offense last year had a lot to do with extenuating circumstances. Consider that Cincinnati was outscored by 28 points in the first half last season. Also consider that just when the Bengals may want to reestablish the running game in the third quarter, they were outscored by 36 points. This doesn't offer many opportunities for the rushing offense to find its rhythm, thus its priority depreciated; especially considering Carson Palmer was the quarterback targeting Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens -- a tandem that even gave Bengals fans chills before the year began.
Much like 2009, this year the Bengals are refocusing on a rushing philosophy, which worked well enough for the team. We just have to hope that when all of the pieces are mixed together, we get a better result than the three points Cincinnati scored Friday night.