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|Cedric Benson should play a larger role in the Bengals' running game on Sunday against Green Bay.|
The Cincinnati Bengals recently signed Cedric Benson in an attempt to jump start their struggling ground game. The team currently averages just 78.0 rushing yards per game (30th in the NFL) and 3.3 per carry (31st). Bringing in a former No. 4 overall draft pick to help change the complexion of the run game might seem like a reasonable idea, but the Bengals aren't changing their fortunes -- just the names on the back of the uniforms.
Chris Perry is averaging a paltry 2.8 yards per carry, and with 85 carries (11th most in the league) he's had his chances to prove that he's part of the solution. No luck. Since being selected in the first round of the 2004 draft, Perry has fallen short of expectations for two reasons: injuries and ball security. He has five fumbles in as many games this season, and the straw that seemed to break the camel's back was a turnover against Dallas on Sunday in a crucial situation, with Cincinnati poised for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. Given the Bengals' talent at quarterback and wide receiver, the coaches expect the backs to at least hold on to the ball when they do run.
Though Perry is still the starter, Benson will definitely play more of a role in the running game on Sunday against the New York Jets and looks like he's being groomed to take over as starter for the rest of the season. Both backs are similar physically, though Benson doesn't have Perry's power into the hole. And like Perry, Benson lacks top elusiveness and explosiveness through the hole. The main reason he washed out of Chicago is because he simply wasn't aggressive enough, especially for the bruising NFC North. Benson has yet to play up to his measurables, often falling down on first contact and failing to finish runs.
At least he won't be asked to carry the offense in Cincinnati. The Bengals would settle for a semi-effective runner who doesn't put the ball on the turf and can provide competent pass protection when extra blockers are needed. Though Carson Palmer will throw the ball to his backs from time to time, this is a wideout-driven passing game. Having allowed 14 sacks this season -- more than all but six other teams -- the Bengals more often than not will keep Benson (a mediocre receiver) in to block, something he does well.
Still, at best this looks like a minor upgrade for Cincinnati, not a marked improvement. It would take a major turnaround for Benson to revive his career, live up to his draft status and give the Bengals the quality feature back this team needs.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.