The book is out on Bears running back Cedric Benson, and it’s been well circulated, at least as far as one defensive coordinator can see.
Benson plodded along again Sunday in the 34-31 loss to Minnesota with a startling difference evident between the No. 4 pick in 2005 and the No. 7 selection in 2007, the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson. What makes it more stinging is it’s a comparison the Bears are going to have to live with twice a year for seasons to come.
Apologists for the Bears’ offense point out Benson averaged 5.1 yards per carry in the first half. Yeah, and Peterson had only 105 yards at halftime. While he kept running in the second half, Benson was stymied again. He finished with 67 yards in 18 carries for a 3.7 average, the kind of pedestrian effort you accepted with former Bears backs like James Allen. Benson has 370 yards, on pace for 987, and has a season average of 3.1.
By no means does this condemn Benson alone. As former offensive coordinator John Shoop once pointed out, ``it takes a village to run the football.’’ Benson needs more help from his fellow villagers. While Thomas Jones experienced so much success the last two seasons in Ron Turner’s system running through cutback lanes, Benson doesn’t seem to have that ability to slide laterally once he reaches the line.
Turner schemed to run Benson outside more against the Vikings, which helped the Bears avoid the strength of the Minnesota defense in tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams. Off-tackle runs worked in spurts, but nothing was sustained.
``If you can get into an eight-man box and plug inside and make him go sideways, you’re going to give him trouble,’’ the coordinator said. ``He’s a good power guy and you need to keep him going outside. You don’t want him going downhill with that big body when he hits the hole.
``That’s the difference between him and the back they had [Jones]. When I watched tape, Cedric wanted to go downhill. Jones, when he would get into the line of scrimmage, he had that great lateral step to get into a crease. That’s the key. If you cover all the gaps with Benson, he’s either going to lower his head and try to plow ahead, or he’ll go sideways. When you make him bounce it outside, there’s less chance he’s going to hurt you. That’s what I’ve seen with the guy.’’