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Fine tuning

Posted Aug 17, 2010


Cedric Benson has 11 carries for 37 yards in the first two preseason games. (AP photo)

It doesn’t happen often.

Six times to be exact has a Bengals running back rushed for 100 yards on Opening Day. Corey Dillon only did it once. So did Rudi Johnson. James Brooks and Pete Johnson never. And only twice has it happened on the road.

It would help. In games quarterback Carson Palmer has a 100-yard rusher, the Bengals are 20-5.

Cedric Benson is going to try and be No. 7 and No. 3, respectively on Sept. 12 in Foxboro, Mass., when the Bengals open against the Patriots. After the Hall of Fame Game, Benson swore he would have gone for 100 against the Cowboys if he had a few more carries than the handful he got. And on Sunday he broke off his first long run, a 21-yarder, against Denver in the 33-24 win over the Broncos.

He managed just nine yards on his other eight carries but still emerged encouraged.

“I just want to lock this running game down,” he said, but asked if he needs to the ball more, he also said, “I don’t think so, but I definitely want more. Just to get the offensive line going. Everybody going. Not necessarily (more). I feel real good about where I’m at now. I told you last week I could have gone for 100 on Dallas. I don’t come into camp not prepared. I make sure I come in well prepared and ready to go, so that makes getting a feel for things (easier).”

Benson said he “felt really good” reading the zone plays even though he thought the splits up front were tighter than usual against a 3-4 defense. But he felt the offensive line took a step forward from the Dallas game.

“Absolutely,” he said. “We talk a lot about pre-snap penalties, holding penalties, drive-killers. I think they may have been a little conscientious about that (Sunday) and maybe not as free-playing as they normally are. But definitely a step up.”

Benson took advantage of Denver’s crashing ends and hard-flowing interior people to make a nice read on the back side for his 21-yarder, which came courtesy of a nice move on the safety.

“I’m trying to focus to make these long runs touchdowns,” he said. “I guess it was a trailing safety that got involved in the play because I had the guy in front of me straight up. He was in trouble.”

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth felt there had been a step ahead, too. He said there wasn’t a lot of angst about how the first line protected quarterback Carson Palmer in Canton. And except for Palmer getting dumped on a three-step drop on the first snap against Denver, they kept him pretty clean.

“We felt like there were some random things that happened in the Cowboys game and we weren’t really worried about it,” Whitworth said. “All we needed to do was fix it and we did. You never jump on the sword in the first preseason game slash scrimmage of camp. It was something we did better and we’ll continue to get better.”

Whitworth had been hoping to get more than the two drives the first-teamers got in the opener and he got his wish when the third drive went 13 plays for Benson’s one-yard touchdown run.

“We just wanted some more time together,” Whitworth said. “After the last game we said we wanted more time in there and get a chance to move the football a little bit. I think once we started moving the ball at the (first) quarter change, he just let us stay in there. (Marvin Lewis) knew we’d argue to stay in there.”

The two Opening Day 100-yarders on the road? Harold Green in Seattle in 1992 and Rudi Johnson in Cleveland in 2005. The others were Jess Philips against Oakland in 1970, Essex Johnson against Philadelphia in 1971, Larry Kinnebrew against Seattle in 1985, and Corey Dillon against New England in 2001. It helps. The Bengals are 5-1 in those openers.

 

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