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Cincinnati Bengals 2007 Offensive Preview By Position – Running Backs/Full Backs

Posted by Matt on September 7, 2007


Past ‘Previews’:

With Carson Palmer and the quarterbacks out of the way, we now turn our focus to the work horses of the offense, the running backs and full backs. We’ll take a look at the current depth chart, which is much different than one would’ve expected at the start of the preseason. We’ll also take a gander at the two players on the injury list that won’t be on the depth chart come opening day. The third stringer is a new face out of Harvard and replaces Quincy Wilson who was cut much to my dismay as I felt his speed had shown some promise in the limited amount of carries he had received as a Bengal.

Cincinnati Bengals 2007 Preview: Running Backs / Full Backs

Running Backs

#1 Rudi Johnson

The consummate professional, Johnson rolls up his sleeves every week, and every season for that matter, and goes to work. His 1039 rushing attempts over the last three seasons are the most in the NFL and he hasn’t missed a game in that time span. He has rushed for over 1300 yards and exactly 12 touchdowns in each of his last three seasons and expect nothing less than that this season. However, his per carry average dipped to 3.8 last year, which is the lowest, when compared to the team’s per carry average, since 1996 and the overall team’s per carry average of last year of 3.74 being the lowest since 1993. Rudi Johnson will look to turn this trend around despite having lost offensive line stalwarts Eric Steinbach (Free Agency) and Rich Braham (retirement) and may have to be relied on to do it even more-so this season considering the shaky running back picture behind him. Reports out of training camp on Rudi this season are that he tremendously improved on his pass-catching abilities and if that is something the Bengals can utilize more often out of the backfield this season, it will be an added weapon in Johnson’s arsenal and may help to cut down on the beating he usually takes between the tackles. Johnson will look to maintain better ball security this season after his fumble total from last season was more than his previous two seasons combined.

#2 Kenny Watson

Watson enters his fourth year with the Cincinnati Bengals and has become a reliable third-down since his arrival in 2004. Kenny missed 2005 with an injury but bounced back last season seeing action in all 16 games with 25 rushes for 138 yards and a touchdown, good enough for a 5.5 yards-per-carry average. Watson has decent speed with shifty moves and great hands as he caught 23 balls for 213 yards out of the backfield last season giving him a 9.3 yards-per-catch average. Watson will be the lone third-down back at least through the first five games of the season since Chris Perry is out until then and Kenny Irons is on the shelf for the entire year. Watson has the experience in this offense to be a pillar of consistency but he doesn’t have the experience of being the every-down back anywhere and it would be tough for him to make that adjustment in a situation that would see Rudi go down with an injury (God forbid). Despite the injuries to this running backs corps, Kenny Watson provides experience and performance as that third-down back and hopefully he can continue to support Johnson in the run-game.

#3 Clifton Dawson

Dawson, a rookie out of Harvard University, will join fellow Crimson Alumnus Ryan Fitzpatrick on the sidelines for Cincinnati this season. Dawson is a small, shifty back with a frame in the spitting image of Rudi Johnson – 5 foot, 10 inches tall and 215 pounds – and put up solid numbers as the premier back in the Harvard offense for three seasons.

Dawson’s career numbers at Harvard:

  • 2004: 1302 rushing yards on 248 carries (5.3 average) with 17 touchdowns and 129 receiving yards on 15 receptions (8.6 average) with 1 touchdown
  • 2005: 1139 rushing yards on 258 carries (4.4 average) with 11 touchdowns and 336 receiving yards on 34 receptions (9.9 average) with 2 touchdowns
  • 2006: 1213 rushing yards on 237 carries (5.1 average) with 20 touchdowns and 239 receiving yards on 24 receptions (10.0 average) with 1 touchdown

With three straight seasons of over 1,000 yards rushing, Dawson is a consistent workhorse, much like Rudi Johnson, and has a knack for ball security. It will be interesting to see Dawson’s development and to see if he lasts past this season with high draftees Chris Perry and Kenny Irons waiting in the wings.

#- Chris Perry

Out until Week 6 of the NFL season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List

Chris Perry was drafted in Round 1 of the 2004 NFL Draft to be the speed to Rudi Johnson’s power. Unfortunately, Perry has battled injury from the start of his professional career only seeing action in two games during his Rookie season. In his lone healthy season in the Jungle in 2005, Perry rushed for 279 yards on 61 carries with 328 receiving yards on 51 receptions and 2 total touchdowns. Chris was beginning to develop in to the pass catching speedster out of the backfield until injuries again forced him in to limited action last season. Perry will start his second consecutive season on the P.U.P. List and it had appeared Chris was on his way out when the Bengals drafted Kenny Irons with their Second Round selection this year. That has since changed with Irons out for the season meaning Perry could play a crucial role in the running game late in the season when he is healthy again as he was as stud his senior season at Michigan where he ran for 1721 yards on 338 carries and the Bengals hope to see that Chris Perry on the field, at some point, for them.

#- Kenny Irons

Out for season

The Bengals selected Irons out of Auburn with their Second Round selection this year, hoping the “scat back” would help form the dual threat with Rudi Johnson that Chris Perry never did. Irons numbers last year weren’t astronomical as he missed some time throughout the season, but the athleticism has always been there and that is what Cincinnati saw. Irons put up big numbers as the feature back in 2005 with 1293 rushing yards on 256 carries (5.1 average) to compliment 164 receiving yards on 14 receptions. Only time will tell if Irons can bounce back from this injury to be a force at the professional level and let us hope his career isn’t plagued by injuries like Chris Perry’s has been or let us hope that his career doesn’t spiral in to obscurity like Ki-Jana Carter’s did after his preseason ligament tear against the SAME Detroit Lions in his Rookie season (the parallelisms of Irons’ injury to Carter’s is slightly eerie).

Full Backs

#1 Jeremi Johnson

Johnson and Johnson, the running back/full back tandem that is arguably the most consistent duo in the NFL. Johnson has been the number one guy in the backfield as the lead blocker since his rookie year and he begins his fifth year with the Bengals this year out of Western Kentucky. Johnson is the lone full back on the Bengals’ depth chart if that gives you any idea of his staying power on the field and the coaching staff’s confidence in him. J.J. has opened up holes up the middle with moderate regularity and has been a major player in Rudi’s three straight 1300+ yard rushing seasons. Not much to say otherwise as Jeremi sees limited touches in both the running and the passing game, but believe me when I say he will giving it all on every play this season opening up the middle for Ruuudi.

UP NEXT: Wide Receivers


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