Brian Leonard: The "X' Factor

Michael HammonsCorrespondent IJune 27, 2010

CINCINNATI - NOVEMBER 29: Brian Leonard #40 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium on November 29, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As Bengals fans are well aware, last year's offensive attack wasn't exactly a harmonious symphony. Clearly, Cedric Benson was the main cog on that side of the ball, but the aerial assault scared no one, and as the season wore on, and injuries developed, the offense gradually grew worse with each passing week.

However, there was one man who was able to rise above it all. When the team needed Brian Leonard, he was there.  I would go so far as to say that without his contributions, the Bengals not only would have missed out on a division title, but would have missed the playoffs altogether.  He was that clutch.

Lets rewind back to the end of September. The hated Pittsburgh Steelers were in town, and appeared to have yet another victory in the Queen City sealed and delivered.  The Bengals were driving into Pittsburgh territory, but were down to their last chance.

On fourth and 10, from the Pittsburgh 15 yard line with 18 seconds left, Palmer hooked up with Leonard.  Steelers linebacker James Farrior looked as if he was going to stop Leonard short of the first down marker, but through heart and effort Leonard dove forward and converted the crucial first down. That set up the go ahead touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell with seconds left.

Later in the season, against Kansas City, Leonard stepped up in a big moment once again, grabbing a big third down reception to help set up the game winning drive.

That was just Leonard's M.O.  The stats weren't there, but he knew his role and performed it to perfection.  In addition to being such a reliable third/fourth down back, he was also a good blocker, and in general, a guy who gave his all.   

He is a free agent following this season.  Lost in the Benson contract situation is his own,  I would hate to lose a guy like Leonard.  There may be flashier guys out in the market, but good luck replacing the intangibles.