I mean, re-signing him doesn’t make a lot of sense. But Cedric Benson himself doesn’t make much sense.
See, the impending free agent knows his time in Cincinnati is probably coming to an end, and he’s voicing his frustration by criticizing an offense that, despite featuring a rookie quarterback and rookie No. 1 wideout, was good enough to get the Bengals to the playoffs in 2011.
“I just think we didn’t stick with what the offense was built on,” Benson said on Sirius XM NFL Radio last night. “Since I’ve been there the past four years we’ve ran the football to try and win games. Even when we had Carson (Palmer) and Chad (Ochocinco), we still kept a strong identity in the run game.
“I just feel we got away from it. We didn’t let that part of the offense grow the way it could have.”
Maybe they “got away from it” because, for the second straight year, Benson averaged fewer than 4.0 yards per carry. His 29-year-old body couldn’t get to the second level or break away from defenders.
And it’s not as though Jay Gruden’s offense didn’t give him a fair shake early. The problem was that Benson’s rushing high watermark of the season came in Week 1, when he went for 121 yards on 25 carries. Less than a month later he had one of his worst games as a pro, accumulating only 53 yards on 24 carries against Jacksonville. From that point on, he was consistently mediocre, lacking big-play ability and failing to keep defenses honest.
The Bengals managed to average 21.5 points per game despite Benson and the running game, which garnered the third fewest 20-yard runs in the league in 2011 after having the fewest in 2010.
Benson is ignorant of those numbers. The brunt of his frustration probably stems from the fact he received only seven carries in Cincinnati’s wild-card playoff loss to the Texans. But Benson had only 14 yards on those seven carries and just 12 yards on a total of eight touches in the game. It didn’t help his cause that Cincy trailed for much of the day, but Benson can really only blame himself. It’s easy to see why Gruden lost confidence in his veteran back when you consider that he fumbled five times — losing two — in a two-week span in December.
Now he’s a soon-to-be-30-year-old running back with ball-control questions, a lack of tackle-breaking ability and a poor reputation off the field.
Remember how quickly Shaun Alexander and Larry Johnson disappeared? Look for Benson to follow in those footsteps.