Benson runs by a Carolina defender for the Bengals 1st score against the Panthers Thursday night.

Can Benson Carry the Load?

When Cedric Benson joined the Bengals in the middle of the 2008 season, the Bengals’ running game had been non-existent the past 2 seasons after a decade of great running teams behind Corey Dillon and Rudi Johnson. After Johnson finally wore down after 4 good years and Chris Perry proved to be an inadequate replacement, Benson stepped in and revived the running game while QB Carson Palmer was sidelined with an elbow injury. Benson carried the team to 3 straight wins to end the 2008 season, which helped build up to a 2009 division title led by his 1,251 rushing yards.

Most running backs can give now is 4-5 straight good years. When Benson joined the Bengals in the middle of 2008, he went on to average 17.8 carries per game, 10th in the NFL. In 2009, he averaged 23.2 CPG, which was the most in the NFL. Last year when Cincinnati focused more on the passing game with Palmer, Ocho, and TO, Benson still managed to have 20.1 CPG, which was 6th in the NFL. After watching Benson get 16 carries vs Carolina in the 1st half(most of which were in the 1st QTR), its safe to say the Bengals are counting on Benson to carry the offense more than ever. This also keeps the Bengals’ defense off the field, which likes to blitz frequently and can wear a defense down quick if they are on the field too often. Its safe to say that despite all the new faces on offense, Benson will once again be the key to how much success this team will have. But can he handle it? History would say a RB entering his 7th year will start to significantly decline. However, if you’ve watched Benson this preseason, you’ll see he looks as fast and powerful as he’s ever been. One reason for such is his first 2 years in the league he was the 2nd RB behind Thomas Jones. Because of injuries, he would only play in 11 games in 2007, then joined the Bengals in 2008 and only played in 12 games. In essence, his only full seasons as a #1 RB were in 2009-2010, and 2009 was cut short by 3 games due to a hamstring injury. As far as games played(76), his body has only been through 5 seasons worth of football, and only 3 as a #1 RB(51 starts). Based on these facts, Benson should be good to carry the load this year and 1-2 more years. Coupled with the fact that Benson is on a 1-year contract and is looking to get at least one more good payday, Benson may be one of the more underrated players in the NFL going into the season. Most analysts have Benson ranked between the 20-30th best RB right now. If Andy Dalton can pose as a legitimate passing threat, and the Bengals’ O-line blocks well, look for Benson to have another breakout season.

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