For Cedric Benson, what a difference a year makes. From No. 4 overall draft pick to out of the NFL, Benson has experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
He even saw action in the Super Bowl, although he would eventually leave with an injury en route to a Bears defeat.
This Sunday, the Bears will travel to Cincinnati to take on Benson's Bengals in a key game for both teams. While the playoffs are still a ways off, both teams could use a victory Sunday.
A Bears victory will likely coincide with their ability to shut down Benson and the Cincinnati rushing attack. Failure to do so, and the Bears will be looking at a 3-3 record through their first six games.
Benson has enjoyed a second wind with the Bengals this season, currently ranking third in the league in rushing yards. His 531 rushing yards are almost a career high (747 in 2008) and he has not shown any signs of stopping.
His game against the Ravens two weeks ago (27 carries, 120 yards, 1 TD) was nothing short of spectacular. If you rush for 100 yards against Baltimore, you get the game ball.
Benson has given Bengals fans reason to believe that something special is happening in Cincinnati.
With that said, I wanted to break down his tenure as a Chicago Bear.
For the record, as a Bears fan, I don't hate Cedric Benson.
I actually like him, if anything. He made the Bears look foolish time and time again, but I have forgiven him and moved on.
His status as No. 4 overall draft pick was soon in the category of "bust," and he set the Bears back several years in terms of their rushing attack.
In Benson, the Bears felt they had a legitimate No. 1 running back in the NFL.
Therefore, they viewed Thomas Jones, currently a Pro Bowl back with the Jets, as expendable. He would eventually be traded for a draft pick.
The Bears went from having—in their minds—two quality backs to having none. Matt Forte has turned out to be a good NFL running back, but this was supposed to be Cedric's team and Cedric's time.
The Bears essentially lost a Pro Bowl running back and a No. 4 overall draft pick because of Benson's inability to produce.
Benson made more noise off the field—mainly on a boat—than he did on a football field; never a good thing in the NFL.
He was often hurt, or lazy, and never was fully comfortable with his teammates or this city. He will go down as one of the biggest busts in Bears history.
Now in Cincinnati, Benson is making a new name for himself and trying to erase the demons from life as a Chicago Bear.
Maybe it was the media scrutiny.
Maybe it was the rocky relationship with then-starter Thomas Jones.
Maybe it was his inability to live up to lofty expectations (there will never be another Walter Payton).
Whatever the case, Benson's stint as a Bear was awful.
Though they'll never admit it, you have to wonder if players like Tommie Harris, Lance Briggs, and Charles Tillman will be gunning for Benson this week.
Sure, they try and tackle every opposing ball carrier and make stops. But will this game against their former teammate bear any special significance?
They'll say, "It's just another game," but will they truly believe it?
The Bears defense has a lot of pride. For many years, it was their only source of talent and their defense would more often than not be the deciding factor in a Bears victory.
They have to be licking their chops just a little at the thought of playing their once highly-touted running back prospect.
If this unit has any pride at all, they'll show it on Sunday by shutting down Benson.
Chad Ochocinco and Carson Palmer could very well put on an airshow for the weak Bears secondary, but Benson can not bulldoze his way through the Bears front seven.
If Benson does, then the Bears would have lost more than just a game.
They would have lost their pride and integrity too.
See you on Sunday, Ced.
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