Of Course A Bears Offensive Player Is Good AFTER He Leaves The Team

This time I am talking about Cedric Benson. Benson was the Bears first round draft pick and 4th pick overall in 2005. We also got Thomas Jones recently as well and for the first two years Benson was a Bear, our running game looked amazing. In 2005 and 2006, Benson, granted as a back up, averaged a fine, above average, 4.1 YPC. Benson looked ready to become a starter so Chicago traded away Thomas Jones to the Jets. Jones then becomes a pro-bowler and Benson ends up being so bad, that he gets cut. Story of a first round Bears draft pick.

Then the Cincinnati Bungels picked him up and after an awful year last year (averaging only 3.5 yards per carry), is now having a great year. Benson is 8th rated RB this year in Yahoo!, 3rd among all RBs in yards, and now averaging 4.4 YPC- his career high. Yes granted we are talking an extremely limited sample size of only three games, but come on, what gives!

So I did a little research and I think I've found out why Benson has been good so far- the Bungals rushing O-line is much improved this year.

Yes, Benson does rank 10th overall in DYAR and 12th in DVOA. Imagine DYAR to football is like VORP in baseball, but accounting for defense. And DVOA represents how valuable per play is a back compared the league average. This is impressive considering the past two years Benson was negative in both these categories, ranking him towards the bottom of the list. But I don't think this explains why Benson is so good. I think these are casual trends to help show how good Benson is, but I don't think it fully explains it. What makes a RB go from being in the bottom of the league to being a top ten back?

I think that's best explained by his offensive line. This year, the Cincy O-line ranks 10th in run blocking. And if you look even further than that, they have fantastic run blocking tackles. The Bengals Left Tackle Andrew Whitworth is ranked first in run blocking among all LT's and their Right Tackle, Anthony Collins, is ranked fifth. Left Guard Evan Mathis is pulling his weight as well ranking 9th among LG in run blocking. Having three out of the five O-lineman be in the top 9 in run blocking, and two playing right next to each other to help open up holes, really helps a running back actually gain yards.*

Here's a list of where Benson's O-lines rank according to run blocking and Benson's YPC:

2009 (Bengals): 10th; 4.4
2008 (Bengals): 32rd; 3.5
2007 (Bears): 30th; 3.4
2006 (Bears): 7th; 4.1
2005 (Bears): 15th; 4.1

No surprise that when Benson has a top tier run blocking O-line that Benson succeeds.

*Yes, I am making the assumption that when a Bengals left guard is first in run blocking I attribute it to the starting LG Cincy has on its team. Sure, that player probably doesn't play every down to take full credit, but he plays most. I don't think it's an unfair assumption to make