Andy Dalton spreads the ball around to receivers A.J. Green, Jerome Simpson and Andrew Hawkins. Second-year tight end Jermaine Gresham is not just a safety valve, he is a playmaker.
Yet all of Cincinnati’s youthful speed is being stymied by veteran running back Cedric Benson. Although Benson is the team’s best option to pick up tough yards, Bernard Scott is a better fit for this offense and should get most of the carries.
There is no argument that Scott is the faster of the two running backs; comparing the two is like comparing a rabbit to a boar. While Benson can barrel through holes at the line of scrimmage, he does not have the speed to elude tacklers at the second level.
On the rare carry when Benson reaches the secondary, he is a predictable runner. He will not cut back or juke a defender. When Scott reaches the open field, he is a much more creative ball carrier. His evasive skills add a spark to the offense that Benson simply cannot give the Bengals.
The AFC North is a run-first division, and Bernard Scott has out-produced Cedric Benson against the Steelers and the Ravens in Weeks 10 and 11. Both running backs received fewer carries in these games because Cincinnati was playing from behind, but in the Bengals’ two most important games this season, Scott outplayed Benson to the tune of over a yard-and-a-half more per rush.
Against Pittsburgh, Scott ran the ball seven times for 38 yards, a clip of 5.4 yards per carry. Cedric Benson rushed 15 times for 57 yards—just 3.8 yards per attempt.
Who should be the feature running back for the Cincinnati Bengals?
Against Baltimore, Scott gained 40 yards on nine carries for 4.4 yards per rush. Benson had 41 yards, but he needed 15 attempts to do it for a paltry 2.7 yards per carry.
Benson hasn’t been setting the world on fire against teams outside of the division, either.
Since Week 4 against the Buffalo Bills, Benson has not rushed for 80 yards in any game, topping out at 78 yards against the Tennessee Titans. When Scott carried the football a season-high 22 times in Week 8 against the Seahawks, he racked up 76 rushing yards. He can be at least as productive as Benson, but with more big-play ability.
The Bengals should not cut Benson or never feed him the ball, but he and Scott should swap roles. Consensus opinion around Cincinnati is Bernard Scott would not have the yards he does if it were not for Benson. By and large, Scott is considered a change-of-pace back.
Why? If it makes sense that one player’s strength can set up another’s speed, why can’t it work the other way?
Perhaps if Scott gets more carries, his speed will gas the opposition and Benson can run through tired defenders.
If the Cincinnati Bengals offense continues to be predicated on team speed, then Bernard Scott should receive the lion’s share of the carries. He is a better threat in the open field and can hold his own against AFC North defenses.
Cedric Benson slows down Jay Gruden’s offense; to keep giving him most of the reps would be like putting a lawnmower engine in a Ferrari.