The Bengals on Thursday officially announced the signing of running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and now we can officially start to wonder how many carries the former Patriot is going to get in offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's new rotation.
But first things first.
"All that stuff remains to be worked out; that's going to be worked out in training camp," Gruden said. "It's just great to have this guy. He's the kind of guy that makes you sleep at night knowing he's on your team. What's not to like about him? He's reliable. He's productive. He's a great guy. He's coming from a winning team. I'm excited to have him."
And Gruden is going to use him. He has no problem giving BJGE more work than he got in New England during his four seasons (his most is 229 carries in 2010), although Gruden also says that remains to be seen as he also tries to get veteran Bernard Scott the ball.
"But he can do it. He's shown flashes of being able to do it all," Gruden said of BJGE. "It's not his fault that he played running back with the greatest quarterback in the history of football. He hasn't had a 'breakout year,' but he's a very talented player that's going to help us in a lot of ways."
The official announcement also officially ended the Bengals career of Cedric Benson, who took the Cincinnati running game from a very bad place (the 2008 Chris Perry implosion) and made it one of the best in the league in 2009 and the centerpiece of an AFC North title. But the Bengals couldn't rekindle it the past two seasons and in the second year of his scheme Gruden hopes to jump-start the running game with a rotation.
In a classy move Benson tweeted moments after the BJGE signing was made official, "Big ups to all my Cinci supporters. Preciate all the love & support during my time in Cinci I gt nothing but love for u guys!!"
Benson became miffed when Scott got more and more carries last season (Scott ended up with a career-high 112 carries for a career-low 3.4 yards per average), and Gruden seems set on a more clear-cut rotation now that he doesn't have to placate Benson.
"I don't know what it will be," Gruden said of the rotation. "But (BJGE) deserves to carry the ball. B-Scott deserves more carries. ... If a guy gets hot, he'll get the carries ... they both understand that."
Gruden certainly sees the 5-11, 215-pound BJGE getting a lot of snaps on short yardage and on the goal line, where the Bengals have struggled for the past two years. His 24 touchdowns in 2010 and 2011 compare to Benson's 13 and he was 7-for-10 on third-and-one while Benson was 6-for-12 last season.
Only Houston running back Arian Foster has had more rushing TDs the past two seasons and Green-Ellis is tied with Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy.
"BenJarvus is a no-nonsense runner who consistently gets the ball down the field, and he has a nose for the end zone," Bengals running backs coach Jim Anderson said in a news release. "He's also an asset to the passing game, not only as a receiver but as a blocker. More than all that, he's the kind of guy who comes in to work hard every day, a great team player and a great addition for us."
Green-Ellis has caught only 26 balls in his career (Benson and Scott caught a combined 28 last season) and only nine last year. But Gruden says he can do it.
"They didn't throw it to him 40 times, but he can catch. He's got the good hand-eye coordination," Gruden said.
It was reported that after he signed a four-year, $14 million deal that included a $7 million guarantee, new Bears backup running back Michael Bush said his choice was between the Bears and Bengals. Both visited the Bengals earlier this week and it's believed the Bengals were impressed with both but opted for the sleeker Green-Ellis, although the 243-pound Bush also offered some versatility.
Gruden thinks BJGE's track record of no fumbles in 510 NFL carries and just 30 career negative runs fits well into the rough-and-tumble AFC North.
"I think it's important to have guys that are used to winning. Guys that expect to win and he's one of those guys," Gruden said. "He's coming from a great team and he's been in a lot of big games.
"You know what you've got. He'll be there every day. He's an accountable guy as shown by the fact he doesn't put it on the ground."