The Bengals have an extremely difficult choice in deciding between two very talented, very similarly producing backup running backs.
Recently, we have discussed heavily the possibility that the Bengals will not keep Mark Walton, their fourth round pick this season. Although Walton has been seriously unimpressive this preseason, he will still likely make the team. Walton was passable in yesterday’s game, so he should be the third back this season.
That leaves one spot for Tra Carson and Brian Hill to fight over. This will be an incredibly tough decision, as both have flashed during the preseason. They have had very similar stat lines as well, which makes this decision no easier. They have similar builds and skill sets, so who will the Bengals pick.
In the most important game of the preseason, Week 3, Carson and Hill had identical rushing line with 4 carries for 24 yards. Both were the most effective of all running backs, which has been impressive behind a poor offensive line.
The week before, the Bengals took on the Cowboys, and both backs played great then too. Carson showcased his power, bullying in a short yardage touchdown on the goal line. Hill flashed his receiving acumen, catching 2 passes for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Yesterday, Hill had what was probably the better stat line, carrying the ball 8 times for 38 yards and catching 2 passes for 10 yards. However, Carson got another short yardage touchdown and flashed his ability in the passing game. That was a skill Carson hadn’t really displayed to this point, but he caught 4 passes for 23 yards against the Colts.
There are a few other factors to consider when breaking down this decision. For one, Carson has entered the game sooner than Hill every preseason game – that may show the Bengals’ preference for him. However, Hill is a better pass catching back than Carson, which could be more useful if Walton is placed on the inactives this season.
Also, both have had experience on this roster, but in different capacities. Hill was actually on the team last year, rushing 11 times for 37 yards. He wasn’t particularly flashy in 2017. However, Carson has had a longer tenure, hanging around the team since 2016, although only in training camp. Last season, he was on IR, so Carson had some exposure to the Bengals all throughout the year.
So what will the Bengals do? I really struggle with this decision, since it is such a toss-up. However, if I had to choose, I would keep Carson.
Although he will be the last running back to make the team, I believe Carson will be active over Walton. Carson is the best power back on the roster right now, which could be an asset on short yardage situations. He has flashed the ability to work in the pass game, too, as a blocker and receiver, so he isn’t a one-trick pony.
This decision could go either way, but I lean towards Carson. He did just enough in the last preseason game for me to favor him over Hill. Both would be fine choices for this roster, though.