Fog Bowl: Cedric the Complainer
By Andy Behrens
October 31, 2007
It's Halloween, so today we'll devote the column to the scariest possible fantasy subject: Cedric Benson.
What's so scary about him? It's a fair question. It's not like linebackers across the NFL are panicked.
This is what's frightening about Benson: 3, 10, 8, 7, 12, 7, 5, 6.
Those are his weekly public league fantasy totals so far. He has 58 points through eight weeks this season. That's 7.3 points per game, which puts him outside the top 30 at his position. Ten running backs are averaging more fantasy points per week than Benson's highest single-game output. Not exactly what you were looking for when you took him in the middle of Round 2.
Benson earns special consideration as a fantasy disappointment because he insists that he's actually not that bad, despite the visual and statistical evidence that suggests otherwise. These are a few of his recent comments, as reported by the Chicago Tribune's Vaughn McClure:
"I've been hearing a lot of people criticize and talk stuff. They're not watching the games or the plays. They're just throwing out criticism. Do I need to run with more of a burst? No. And (expletive) them … I don't appreciate all that criticism coming my way. I can understand if I'm tugging the ball for 18, 20 carries and still getting 50 yards. But what am I doing that's so bad? I don't understand … I come out on third downs, I have two downs to do something. That's not to say we're going to run it on those two downs."
OK, well, I'll take a shot at responding here. I've criticized and talked stuff.
I've also watched every play in every Bears game this season. And last year. And the year before. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I saw every play in that preseason game when Benson wandered off, so there's a good chance I've watched more Bears football than he has since he joined the team.
I'm actually certain that I've seen an overwhelming majority of Bears plays dating back to 1978. I doubt very much that I ever missed an installment of "The Neill Armstrong Show." At the time, I really had no idea that the Bears head coach was not also, in fact, a kick-ass astronaut, so that inspired some interest.
Whatever else you think, know that my Bears-watching credentials cannot be criticized. You'll note the name of the column.
Few of us are surprised to see Benson running exactly as he is, at least in terms of style. No one ever accused him of being elusive. Most of us are still surprised to see him averaging 3.1 yards per carry, though – that's a full yard less per attempt than Benson managed last year. Too often, the first person who touches him also tackles him. That's not really a spectacular trait in a player who seems to seek out contact. Running behind a respectable line and facing a soft schedule (.465 opponents winning percentage), we all expected at least a good impression of Thomas Jones, who had 296 carries, 1,210 yards, six TDs and 36 receptions in 2006.
But in order to reach those numbers in 2007, Benson will need 147 carries, 744 yards, four TDs and 22 receptions over the Bears' final eight games. He'll basically need to be Adrian Peterson – the really good one. It's perfectly clear that he can't do that.
If you wanted him to catch 22 passes, you might have to throw him 200. As we've documented in multiple Sunday Scenes – here and here – Benson is just not a credible threat when the Bears need to throw. Or even when they'd like to make an opponent think they might throw. It's not an exaggeration to say that most ambulatory adult males can catch things more reliably than Cedric Benson. This is why he often has "only two downs to do something."
Here's my favorite Benson quote: "I can understand if I'm tugging the ball for 18, 20 carries and still getting 50 yards. But what am I doing that's so bad?"
You're averaging 18.6 carries and 58.3 yards per game, Cedric. Just so you know.
There have been four weeks this season in which you've had 15 or more carries for 50 yards or less. That's what you're doing that's so bad. After the bye, two of your next three games are against the NFL's worst run defenses – Oakland allows 5.3 yards per carry and Denver allows 4.9. So there's at least some hope.
Do you need to run with more of a burst? Yeah, couldn't hurt. If you can't, we're all (expletive).
Andy Behrens has written for ESPN.com, the Chicago Sports Review, NBA.com, the Chicago Reader and various other publications. In all likelihood, Andy owns more Artis Gilmore memorabilia than you. Follow him on Twitter. Send Andy a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Wednesday, Oct 31, 2007 6:59 pm, EDT