Scout Analysis: No Cedric, No Problem
RB Matt Forte (Warren Wimmer Photo)
RB Matt Forte (Warren Wimmer Photo)
Publisher
Posted Jun 24, 2008


The Chicago Bears were 30th in the league running the ball in 2007 at 83.1 yards per contest and dead last at 3.1 yards per carry. Now with Cedric Benson no longer in the equation, will the ground game get better or worse? JC breaks down the situation and offers five reasons to be optimistic for 2008.

Benson made the offense way too predictable most of last season
Cedric Benson was always a poor blocker in pass protection and an even worse receiver out of the backfield, which forced offensive coordinator Ron Turner to use Adrian Peterson in obvious passing situations. As a result, enemy defenses knew exactly what to expect based on the personnel in the Chicago backfield. If Benson was in the game, more often that not he was going to get the ball; if Peterson was in the game, more often than not it was going to be a pass.

Matt Forte is already light years better as a receiver than Benson ever was and may have been the best blocking tailback in his draft class, so Turner can feel comfortable leaving Forte on the field whether it's 1st-and-10, 2nd-and-5, or 3rd-and-12.

Forte won't be able to sign his contract and retire on the same day
There has been plenty of speculation surrounding Benson that he enjoyed getting paid to play football but never truly wanted to play football. Even as a 12th-round draft pick of the Dodgers back in 2001, he stuck around the game of baseball just long enough to get a few healthy paychecks before returning to the University of Texas to focus on his pigskin career. Once Benson received $17 million in guaranteed money from the Bears as the No. 4-overall pick three years ago, it's possible that the drive and determination he needed to live up to his lofty draft status instantly disappeared.

While Forte will certainly be paid well once he signs his name on the dotted line, he won't be guaranteed millions and millions of dollars as a second-rounder and will undoubtedly make the brunt of his money with his second NFL contract – meaning he'll have to earn it on Sunday.


RB Adrian Peterson
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Nobody ever accused Peterson of dogging it
Fellow first-round flop Michael Haynes was asked about Benson recently by the Chicago Sun-Times, and he did not pull many punches on the subject. Haynes said that Benson was lazy with his workout regimen, not a hard worker in practice, and used to being coddled by his coaches, which instantly put him at odds with the majority of his teammates in the locker room – the 36-day contract holdout that caused him to miss all of training camp his rookie year didn't help either. In hindsight, trading Thomas Jones to the Jets, fresh off back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons on the ground, seems ludicrous since Benson did almost nothing to earn the starting job.

Peterson may have only averaged 3.4 yards per carry in 2007, the same as Benson, but he fought tooth and nail for every inch and proved it by carrying half the Green Bay defense into the end zone for a dramatic touchdown at bone-chilling Soldier Field in Week 16.

It will be easier to work Wolfe into the lineup to see what he can do
Generously listed at 5-7 and 186 pounds, nobody is expecting Garrett Wolfe to duplicate the prolific success he had at Northern Illinois. That being said, general manager Jerry Angelo fell in love with the diminutive ball-carrier at a private workout in DeKalb and felt the need to reach for him in Round 3 of the draft a year ago – he was considered by most every talent evaluator to be a sixth- or seventh-round prospect. Yet Wolfe still had all kinds of trouble getting on the field consistently as a rookie because of the offensive commitment to Benson, logging only 31 carries for 85 yards and catching just nine passes for another 117.

Forte is in line to get the majority of the workload in the backfield but probably isn't going to see 20-25 touches every week, plus Wolfe may offer a more effective change of pace than Peterson because of his game-breaking speed.

A unified locker room is a happy locker room
Most of the players have said all the right things when asked about Benson both before and after he was waived by the organization. But if you take a minute to read between the lines, it's not hard to figure out that he was never very popular amongst his teammates and did little to endear himself to the Windy City community. Whether he was boasting about how fast he would leapfrog Jones on the depth chart, leaving the sideline early during a preseason game, or getting arrested back in Texas on two alcohol-related charges in the span of five weeks, Benson wasn't much of a man on or off the field.

Not having to deal with him anymore should be a sigh of relief for the entire franchise and will give the good-guy triumvirate of Forte, Peterson, and Wolfe an opportunity to make the running game better in 2008.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.



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RB Cedric Benson (profile)
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