2011 NFL Draft: Why Andy Dalton and A.J. Green Mean Little Without Cedric Benson

Matt Gray@mattkgrayContributor IApril 30, 2011

BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 2:  Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs the ball against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Bengals 13-6. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images

Many mock drafts were proven right Thursday, when the Cincinnati Bengals went and took A.J. Green at No. 4 overall, complementing him with Andy Dalton at No. 35 in the second round, and from what we've seen in press conferences in the last 48 hours, everyone within the Bengals organization seems to be very happy.

So where does that leave us as the offense goes forward? Well with Dalton and Green starting out together they will have a lot of time to learn and grow together in Cinci. However they could be in for a bumpy ride in the coming weeks, and ultimately the coming season. Dalton has been called a "project" by many analysts and some are weary about seeing him start right away, and with the uncertainty surrounding Carson Palmer, he just might have to do so.

If this is the case, Dalton will have a hard time being able to be a play-maker week-in-week-out, as after all he is a rookie, his early success then could hinge on the return of Cedric Benson.

Benson, who is due to be released on the free-agent market, will need to be re-signed by the Bengals if Cinci want to compete in 2011. Benson is one of the few pieces left of the Bengals successful 2009 season and a disappointing 2010 due in part to a re-focusing on the passing game, and Jay Gruden will likely make Cedric Benson the centerpiece of his offense once again this year. That is something the team will want and will most certainly need.

Dalton is an incredibly hard worker and puts in the time needed to play the QB position, but will find that there is only so much you can learn in between the draft and week one, so he will be relieved to find Benson to lean on in 2011, provided Mike Brown spends the money and brings him back.

Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com has listed re-signing Benson as one of Cincinnati's top priorities, suggesting that the Bengals would "dearly love" to have their "bell-cow" return. Added to that, Benson has commented on his interest in Jay Gruden as the team's new offensive coordinator.

"Well, that's my kind of guy [Gruden]. That's my game. I'm excited about this guy. I think Gruden is exactly what Cincinnati needs. I think it's going to be an exciting season," Benson said. "I want to come back. I want to play there. I've gotten a lot of love and support from people. I hope it works out."

With Benson likely to test the waters of free agency, Bengals fans will be watching with baited breath, hopeful that he will re-sign. As one of the few offensive veterans left, Benson's presence/absence in Cincinnati will likely define their season.