When you hear talk of the Cincinnati Bengals surprisingly successful 2011 season, the two names mentioned over and over again are quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green. While Dalton and Green did indeed have stellar seasons, one of the key factors that allowed for their success was a strong running game, led by Cedric Benson. And yet the Cincinnati Bengals chose to walk away from Benson when his contract was up and in his place bring on BenJarvus Green-Ellis from the New England Patriots. Five weeks into the 2012 NFL season, it appears that decision was a big ol' belly flopping bust.
When you compare Cedric Benson's and BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 2011 seasons, you have to wonder what motivated the Bengals to make such a change. Cedric Benson, now with the Green Bay Packers, finished the season ranked 12th in rushing in the NFL with 1,067 yards on the season. Benson averaged 3.9 yards per carry, 71.1 yards each game, and came up with 53 first downs on the year. Green-Ellis ranked 27th in rushing, putting him between 26th ranked Cam Newton and 28th ranked Tim Tebow - who aren't even running backs. Green-Ellis had 667 total yards in 2011, averaged 3.7 per carry and 41 first downs. So why forsake Benson for Green-Ellis?
The motivating factor in this change was likely fumbles. Cedric Benson had five last year and BenJarvus Green-Ellis was perfect with zero. But here is the thing with perfection: when you seek it out you are likely going to get burned. Case and point: Mr. Perfect BenJarvus Green-Ellis already has three fumbles with the Cincinnati Bengals through five games in 2012.
As a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals, to say BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been less than impressive is akin to saying Cincinnatians aren't fond of Mike Brown - an understatement of monumental proportion. Fumbles aside, Green-Ellis is averaging only 3.3 yards per carry - which puts him 40th in the NFL so far this year. Andy Dalton, who is by no means a running quarterback, is averaging 3.2. Every time they hand the ball off to Green-Ellis it is cringe-worthy, just waiting for him to run into someone's back and waste the play.
Until last week, it seemed okay to give him the benefit of the doubt and spread the blame around. Perhaps the blocking was poor and no running back would have success in the same situation. Then Bengals running back Bernard Scott, coming off of injury, began the game against the Miami Dolphins. Scott carried the ball eight times for 35 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Phew, thought Bengals fans, our running game is saved. But no, Scott injured his knee and is now out for the season.
Whatever it is the Cincinnati Bengals thought they saw in BenJarvus Green-Ellis that inspired them to bring him on board seems to be missing. And while some may put the loss versus the Miami Dolphins last week on Andy Dalton's shoulders, it is hard for any quarterback to succeed when you have no running game. Defenses know what is coming when passing is your only option to pick up yards.
The Cincinnati Bengals have a solid quarterback, talented wide receivers, and a strong defense. What they are lacking is the ability to run the ball. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is supposed to be our leader in this charge, and if he doesn't start performing soon, it's going to be a long season for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Sortable Player Statistics, ESPN.com
Lisa Stewart is a married mother of two who lives in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a die-hard Bengals fan who looks forward to the day when they will finally win it all.
Follow Lisa on Twitter: @lisa0606
More Articles by this Contributor:
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Cedric Benson
- Andy Dalton