Losing John Conner was a tough one.
While watching his perfect-form bulldog of a shoulder laying into people during Tuesday night's Hard Knocks finale, the question whether the Bengals made the right decision crept back into my mind. Probably yours too. Throughout the episode we were led to believe that the position battle boiled down to John Conner as the natural all-destroying full back and Orson Charles, the second-year H-back that plays multiple positions with special teams contributions. Where was Alex Smith in those discussions? Already locked into a spot? Apparently the two-by-two (Conner, Charles, Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert) wasn't as awesome as my mind portrayed.
Obviously a question asking if the Bengals made the right decision can't, and won't be, answered until after the season. For all we know, Charles will become a serviceable blocker with soft hands that makes him a monster for defensive coordinators who are asking themselves, will they pass or throw. And for all we know, Conner signs with one of Cincinnati's opponents with a significant chip on his shoulder. We don't know. That's the point. But it was clear that when Lewis showed video to Charles during final cuts, he was showing film of Conners blocks.
There is a point to be made; one that Hue Jackson tried selling. The Bengals simply don't use a fullback enough to favor Conner's steady blocking compared to Charles' versatility and ceiling.
Since Chris Pressley rejoined the Bengals and became the team's starting full back in '11, Cincinnati has used him on 26 percent of their offensive plays, and 59.3 percent of the team's runs in both years combined. That number dropped significantly in 2012, with Pressley contributing during 20.7 percent of the team's offensive snaps and 47.6 percent when they ran the football. During Pressley's 29 games played in the past two years, he's only averaging 16.7 snaps per game, and during seven of those games he contributed with only ten snaps or less. Conner joined the team after Pressley's season ending injury last season and added 29 snaps in the final three games.
Maybe the Bengals made the right decision, and maybe the point is how often the team uses a fullback, admittedly a dying position. Or maybe it's all about Charles. Either way, Conner making the roster felt like the right move.