The Bengals are expected to announce, perhaps as soon as Tuesday, that they have added a little extra depth to the running back position, by way of the signing of recently released running back Larry Johnson.
Very seldom have the Bengals faithful been so excited while also very apprehensive. Is the pending addition of Johnson a positive move, or a negative one?
1. Depth–The Bengals demonstrated one thing in Sunday’s win over the Steelers: Benson is invaluable. He is probably even irreplaceable. After Benson was knocked out of the game with his hip injury, Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard were able to keep the clock running to ice the game, but the combo isn’t what the team wants to rely upon for sixty minutes.
Johnson has a reputation as a tough, punishing runner. Should Benson have to sit out against some of the Bengals’ lesser opponents, Johnson would be a fine grinder to soften up defensive lines for Scott and Leonard.
2. Experience–Johnson is no rookie looking to make a mark. He finished his career in Kansas City just a few yards shy of Priest Holmes’ team record for yards gained. Johnson knows how to run, and he knows the AFC West, against which the Bengals have three games left this season.
3. Hunger–Johnson could very well be another Benson from the perspective that he is down and most are counting him out. He is looking forward to a chance to show that he is still an elite back. That desire to prove something can oftentimes provide a little extra gas in the tank.
1. Injuries–Johnson has a history of injuries after seasons of being run to death by the Chiefs. He has never regained his old form, although the Chiefs haven’t exactly surrounded him with the offensive line to help him do just that. It remains to be seen if his body has recouperated enough to be able to contribute meaningfully.
2. Attitude–It sucks, what can one say? His recent dismissal from one of the worst teams in the NFL, whether it was due to his use of homophobic terms, or whether it was due to a desire to protect Priest Holmes’ record, or something else all together, leads one to see Johnson as just another misfit and thug the Bengals are trying to salvage on the cheap.
3. Expectations–Marvin Lewis went out of his way Monday to make it clear that Cedric Benson is and will be the man in the backfield and that LJ is merely an insurance policy that will seldom be activated for duty. Will this be good enough for Johnson? At his age and at this stage of his career, he will want to use the rest of this season to prove his worth to another team for next season. He can’t do that if he’s on the inactive list. Will this create a sense of urgency that will ultimately cause Johnson to grow disgruntled, even on a first-place team?
Time will tell if this acquisition is a good one, should it transpire. The positive that comes out of this is that Mike Brown isn’t just sitting around, taking his chances with what he has in hopes of holding things together until Benson patches up. He’s being proactive. He’s acting like a team owner that wants to win.
And to that, we can all say, “Who Dey?”