I’m still shocked that Jay Gruden – with nothing more than a part-time gig under his brother in Tampa on his NFL résumé – is the offensive coordinator of the Bengals. But there was a press conference yesterday, so I guess its really happening.
The biggest news from the conference was that Gruden will install a west coast offense. He also stressed running the ball:
We have to run the ball between the tackles. We have to be a physical team up front. We’re going to challenge our offensive line to be physical… I intend on pounding the ball.”
Those are interesting comments considering the Bengals ran the ball almost exclusively with Cedric Benson in 2010, who is now a 28-year-old free agent coming off a disappointing year.
This past year Benson carried the ball 321 times, becoming the 36th running back over the age of 27 with at least 300 carries in a season over the past two decades. Of the previous 35, only 13 times [by eight different RBs] has that player carried the ball at least 200 times while averaging at least 4.0 yards per attempt the following year – Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Curtis Martin, Tiki Barber, Ricky Watters, Thomas Jones, Jerome Bettis and Priest Holmes.
Even on his best day, Benson doesn’t compare anyone in that group. More than likely he goes the route of some of the other names on the list such as Lamar Smith, James Stewart, Terry Allen and Anthony Johnson.
With that in mind, the Bengals would be wise to target a running back in this year’s draft and Gruden’s comments lead me to believe they could already be considering their options.
There isn’t a running back worthy of a top-10 pick, although I wouldn’t put it past the Bengals front office (a.k.a. Mike Brown) to take Mark Ingram 4th overall.
However, it’s more likely they address this situation in the early 2nd round. It’s possible that Mikel LeShoure could fall to the 2nd day of the draft. LeShoure is a powerful between-the-tackles runner who would seem to fit perfectly into Gruden’s game plan.