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Tag:Bernard Scott
Posted on: January 15, 2012 6:43 pm
 

Will Cedric Benson return to Bengals in 2012?

BensonBy Josh Katzowitz

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has wanted to get backup running back Bernard Scott more playing time, and if this Cincinnati Enquirer report is any indication, it sounds like that might happen in 2012. But it might happen because starter Cedric Benson – who’s hit the 1,000-yard milestone the past three seasons -- might not return to Cincinnati.

“From a consistency standpoint you’d like to get Bernard more carries, more touches and Cedric has earned the right to be a feature back in this offense the last couple of years,” Gruden said. “The more you give it to Bernard the more you’ve got Cedric over there scratching his head and not real happy. Really, to me, on a good football team nobody should worry about who’s scoring or who’s getting the ball so long as the team is moving.”

If that seems like a subtle shot at Benson from Gruden, that certainly could be the case. Gruden inherited Benson, and though Benson has resurrected his career with the Bengals, the team might really want to see what they got when they drafted Scott with the sixth-round selection in 2009.

But the fact is that the Bengals have pounded Benson the past three years. In 2009 and 2010, he carried the ball 301 and 321 times, respectively, and though that number decreased to 273 this seasno, he still had the fourth-most attempts of any AFC running back.

Considering he lost some carries to Scott from the previous two years, Benson wasn’t happy with his team’s direction.

“I wasn’t a big fan of it,” Benson told the paper. “Granted I don’t make those decisions or calls and I have to find a way to make it work. It was something they started soon after the first game. There was a vision where they saw the offense going. I may not like it or agree with it but I’ll make it work if given the opportunity.”

Thing is, he might not get the opportunity. He signed a one-year, $3 million deal before the 2011 season, and that means he’s an unrestricted free agent who could make pretty decent money on the open market.

But considering these are some of the free agent running backs that will emerge this offseason -- Peyton Hillis, Michael Bush, Marshawn Lynch, Ryan Grant, and Mike Tolbert -- Benson has to worry about oversaturation. And if that’s the case, maybe he’s better off taking a few less carries and staying in Cincinnati

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Posted on: November 9, 2011 7:17 pm
 

Film Room: Bengals vs. Steelers preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



So let’s get this straight: the Steelers, at a respectable 6-3, are in third place of the AFC North? And it’s not the soft-scheduled Browns they’re chasing, but rather, the dysfunctional Bengals?

We’re going to find out over the next two months whether the Bengals are a Cinderella story or a farce. First, let’s establish some expectations by examining what the film has revealed over the past two months.



1. The ginger rookie & Jon Gruden’s brother
There’s a growing movement to anoint Andy Dalton the Offensive Rookie of the Year instead of Cam Newton. That’s a fair. Dalton’s team is 6-2, Newton’s is 2-6. But let’s keep our perspective and remember that Dalton is NOT the physical specimen that Newton is. He doesn’t have Newton’s arm, wheels or athletic improv skills. And he’s not being asked to do the same things as Newton.

That said, Dalton has been much closer to Newton’s athletic level than anyone would have ever guessed. He has shown the arm strength to make just about every throw that first-year offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has asked of him. He’s been poised when operating from a muddied pocket, and he’s very good at releasing the ball on the move.

Gruden has done a phenomenal job playing to Dalton’s strengths. The Bengals have a balanced attack that hinges on play-action and rollouts, two concepts that slice the field for a quarterback and help define his reads (see graphic). Gruden also incorporates a lot of three-and five-step drops – another simplification tactic. As a result, the Bengals offense has not only been nearly mistake-free but also calm and consistent.

A play-action rollout simplifies things for a quarterback by essentially slicing the field in half. In this sample (against a basic two-man coverage), a fake handoff compels the defense to flow left. The only defenders who go right are the ones responsible for the two receivers running their patterns to the right.

Quarterbacking 101 teaches you to never throw across your body or back across the field. Thus, after the quarterback rolls out, he only has to read the right side of the field, which consists of nothing but his two receivers and their defensive matchups. Often, the read is simplified even more by throwing to wherever the free safety is not giving help-coverage. If a play is there, it’s easy for the quarterback to see.

If nothing’s there, the quarterback has plenty of room to throw the ball away or scramble.

2. The “sure thing” receiver & other weapons
Wideout A.J. Green has been exactly what you’d expect a No. 4 overall pick to be in Year One. He’s averaging roughly five catches, 75 yards and a little more than half a touchdown per game. He’s clearly Dalton’s go-to guy, being targeted almost automatically when facing one-on-one coverage. Green has a wide catching radius thanks to uncommon body control and a great vertical leap. He’ll climb to the top echelon of receivers once he polishes his route running (he has a bad tendency to yield ground and inside positioning on downfield patterns).

The receiving weapons around Green have been solid. Jermaine Gresham can cause matchup problems in the flats. Veteran Donald Lee has filled in well in the wake of Gresham’s hamstring injury the past two weeks. Jerome Simpson has shown why the team did not discipline him harshly after police found Costco amounts of marijuana in his home this past September. To be blunt, Simpson’s quickness is too valuable to take off the field. He’s much more reliable than Andre Caldwell.

Surprisingly, the black-and-blue ground game that figured to define Cincy’s offense has been extremely average thus far (the statistics support this, as Cincy ranks 28th with 3.7 yards per carry). Cedric Benson is a methodical, patient runner who needs steady blocking in order to thrive. He has gotten that, but not at the level he did two years ago when he averaged nearly 100 yards per game.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, despite a poor outing last week, has played at a Pro Bowl level, and right tackle Andre Smith has flashed astonishing power a few times. But the interior line and ancillary blockers (such as a sixth offensive lineman/fullback/tight end) have been up-and-down.

3. Defensive Overview
The Bengals have a deep, active defensive line that’s extremely potent against the run but just so-so against the pass. Tackles Geno Atkins and Pat Sims both regularly win phone booth matchups in impressive fashion, and Domata Peko almost always punishes teams who try to block him one-on-one. If he’s not penetrating, he’s stalemating in a way that allows teammates to make plays.
 
None of these inside players are dominant pass-rushers, though. And there isn’t much firepower outside. End Michael Johnson uses his athleticism in myriad ways but is not a regular presence in the backfield. Intriguing second-year pro Carlos Dunlap replaces Robert Geathers on passing downs. Dunlap, with his unusual upright style and sinewy explosiveness, is certainly capable of reaching the quarterback, but he’s also capable of disappearing for long stretches.

An impotent pass-rush can put considerable pressure on a secondary. Leon Hall is an elite cover corner who does not command a lot of safety help over the top. Using him in isolated solo coverage is a double-edge sword that has stabbed opponents slightly more than it’s stabbed the Bengals this season. Safeties Reggie Nelson and Chris Crocker are hit-or-miss in coverage but capable of playing in space or the box. They give Mike Zimmer options.

Veteran Nate Clements has done a commendable job replacing Johnathan Joseph. Clements has been especially aggressive in short, underneath coverage. Helping in this facet is the fact that linebackers Thomas Howard and Manny Lawson both move well in the flats. It’s a little surprising that Lawson, who is replaced by Brandon Johnson in nickel (Johnson is the more comfortable of the two between the tackles), hasn’t been asked to put his hand in the dirt on passing downs.

4. Something to consider
This is a sharp, fundamentally sound defense that plays well as a unit in Mike Zimmer’s fairly aggressive scheme. But it’s also a defense that has yet to be tested. Look at the Bengals’ schedule thus far. They opened against Cleveland and Denver, two teams with major problems at wide receiver.

They faced San Francisco in Week 3, a good team but a very, very basic offense. They beat Buffalo in Week 4. Buffalo has a much-improved offense, but they’re not exactly Green Bay. Or even Dallas (never mind what the stats might say). After that it was Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Seattle, three teams with a total of zero proven quarterbacks. Last week the Bengals handled a Tennessee offense that’s respectable but nothing close to dynamic (especially through the air).

You couldn’t ask to face a more banal collection of offenses. This defense is fantastic against the run, but it remains to be seen how it will respond against a rhythmic, up-tempo passing attack.  

5. Matchup with the Steelers
Pittsburgh does have an elite, formidable offense. Cincinnati’s ho-hum pass-rush is not ideal for defending Ben Roethlisberger’s late-in-the-down magic.

The Bengals at least catch a break with wideout Emmanuel Sanders being out (arthroscopic knee surgery). Sanders would have given the Steelers aerial attack third source of speed, which Zimmer’s nickel unit may not be equipped to combat. Instead, it will be either Hines Ward or Jericho Cotchery threatening to catch six-yard slants out of the slot.

On the other side, the only defense comparable to Pittsburgh’s that this Cincy offense has faced is San Francisco’s in Week 3. The Niners were physical in taking away the receivers’ quick routes. The result was eight points and a 1/10 third down success rate for the Bengals. However, Dalton’s game has expanded since then. If need be, it’s possible, though not probable, that he’ll be able to put the team on his back and open things up for the first time this season.

Unless there continues to be slews of the fortuitous field position breaks that this Bengals offense has frequently enjoyed this season, he’ll need to.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 10 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 21, 2010 4:21 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2010 8:34 pm
 

Week 3 Top Ten with a Twist: second-year players

Green Bay LB C. Matthews already has six sacks through two games this year (AP).
Posted by Josh Katzowitz

In my experiences, it’s never too early to hype somebody, no matter how early it is in the season or in a career. Sure, you run the risk of overhype, but then again, who cares? That’s partially what makes following and covering NFL football so much fun. Let the compliments and hyperbole fly and see where everything falls (either in the sky with the stars or on the floor with the garbage).

This week, we’re examining the second-year players who have impressed us the most this season. Some were not stars last season, but in their second years have shown they are, in fact, pretty good – if not great – players. Some were Pro Bowlers last year who have continued their strong play. Some have finally emerged this year. And some who were really special last year but have done next to nothing this season weren’t included.

This is the list in which we celebrate those who haven’t fallen into the so-called sophomore slump. Of course, it’s only two games into the season. Still plenty of time for those compliments to fall from the heavens and thud to the turf.

Sanchez 10. Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets: Listen, I know he’s not the greatest QB out there. He’s got a career 54.7 completion percentage, and he’s got 15 career TDs against 20 INTs. But I saw him in last year’s playoffs manage his team to the AFC championship game as a rookie, and he has the backing of New York’s management. He’s not going to be the next Peyton Manning, but he’s showing improvement. And Sanchez (21 of 30 for 220 yards and three TDs) outplayed Tom Brady last Sunday to beat the Patriots. Maybe an AFC East title isn’t out of the question.

9. Johnny Knox, WR, Bears:
Knox is a member of the powerful triumvirate of players from Abilene Christian who are making an impact in the NFL today (Bengals RB Bernard Scott and Bears S Danieal Manning are the others). He had a solid rookie season on offense, but he really shined on special teams, making the Pro Bowl as a KO returner. He’s made seven catches this year so far, and you saw his ability on the 59-yard pass from Jay Cutler last week when Knox used his pure speed to burn Dallas CB Mike Jenkins and make the catch.

8. Pat McAfee/Kevin Huber, P, Colts/Bengals:
Finally, some love for the punters (though we don’t give enough love to give these two an entry of their own). These two were the best punters in the Big East in their final collegiate seasons – McAfee at West Virginia and Huber at Cincinnati – and they’ve translated those skills into the NFL. McAfee averaged 44.3 yards last year, and though his yards per punt numbers have fallen a bit, he’s dropped five punts inside the 20-yard line. Huber, meanwhile, has upped his average yardage to 44.7.

McCoy 7. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles:
Last season, McCoy scored four rushing touchdowns and he caught 40 passes. Already this season, he’s scored four rushing touchdowns and caught nine passes. Plus, he’s averaging a ridiculous 6.7 yards per rush. He scored three touchdowns in the Eagles win against the Lions on Sunday, and it was the first time a Philadelphia RB has accomplished that since 1995.

6. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos:
Remember how big a loss it could have been when Moreno went down with an injury in the preseason – we asked if Correll Buckhalter or (yikes) LenDale White could take over those No. 1 reps – but since he’s returned, Moreno has reminded Broncos fans why they were so worried about his injury prognosis in the first place. After all, he leads the team with 182 total yards of offense.

5. Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers: Behind Byron Leftwich and Josh Johnson last year, Freeman didn’t get any playing time until midway through the season, where he took over the starting role. He kept his starting position throughout the offseason, but he promptly fractured the thumb on his throwing hand in the preseason and missed some time. But since he’s returned, he’s been quite good, and Tampa Bay surprisingly is 2-0. This, even though Freeman is just 22 years old.

4. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants:
With a solid rookie season, Nicks was a guy who could be expected to make contributions behind Steve Smith and Mario Manningham. Don’t think anybody expected this. Of Nicks’ six catches on the year, four of them have gone for touchdowns. After catching three of them in Week 1, he rolled his ankle and was questionable for last Sunday. But he returned for the Colts game and secured another one late in that contest. He’s becoming a dangerous receiving threat.

3. Brian Orakpo, LB, Redskins:
After Washington drafted him with the No. 13 pick overall in the 2009 Draft, Orakpo had a huge rookie season, recording 11 sacks and earning a Pro Bowl berth. Orakpo’s stats aren’t quite as big so far this year, but he’s still causing plenty of fear among opposing offensive lineman. He’s blitzing more often than last year, and against Dallas in Week 1, he forced Alex Barron into three holding penalties, including the game-winner.

Foster 2. Arian Foster, RB, Texans:
Did anybody see this coming? Especially after last season when he was just a practice squad player in Houston? Well, who would have thought Foster had the 33-carry, 231-yard, three-touchdown career day he had in Week 1 vs. the Colts? Yeah, he came down to earth a little bit Sunday (19 carries for 69 yards and three catches for 69 yards), but still, is there a more exciting RB in the game right now?

1. Clay Matthews, LB, Packers:
He’s been the most dominant defensive player in the NFL this year. He’s got six sacks already this season, and already, there’s talk about him breaking the sack record (um, chances are, this won’t happen). But considering he had 10 sacks last year and is already more than halfway to matching that mark, that’s an awfully impressive figure. And he’s got an impressive head of blonde hair.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com