Jan 5, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals halfback BenJarvus Green-Ellis (42) is tackled by San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle (32) and safety Jahleel Addae (37) during the 2013 AFC wild card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Six-year veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis was not taking snaps with first team when the Bengals met to practice today. He was not taking snaps with the second team either. In his place, 2nd-year man, Gio Bernard was with the first string, while rookie Jeremy Hill practiced with the second-teamers. Apparently, six years of NFL experience, 42 touchdowns and 3.9 yards per carry doesn’t even earn you a back-up job in newly-appointed offensive coordinator Hue Jackson’s backfield.
The stock of BenJarvus Green-Ellis apparently has tumbled since his December 1st outing against the San Diego Chargers. The Law Firm ended that game with 92 yards on 20 carries and a rushing touchdown. One could certainly make the argument that Green-Ellis was the strongest catalyst for that 17-10 regular season victory over San Diego. I’m sure no Bengals fan reading this forgets that San Diego was, of course, the team that ended Cincinnati’s season. So if the Bengals already found the recipe to defeat the Chargers last season, why would they choose to part ways with the player that was its strongest ingredient?
In the playoff game this past January, Green-Ellis was handed the football only eight times, yielding 42 yards on these carries. At 5.25 yards per carry, it is truly baffling that Jay Gruden chose not to call the Law Firm’s number more in the game. This is especially true when one considers that rookie Gio Bernard had already fumbled in that game, and Andy Dalton would end the day with 51 pass attempts. The fact that Dalton ended up with three turnovers shows that he needs help on offense. Calling so many pass plays was the biggest reason the Bengals lost; all four turnovers came on passing plays. Dalton can still prove that he CAN be the franchise quarterback for this team (his statistics on pro-football-reference.com suggest he is quite similar to Jim Kelly, Joe Flacco, Joe Namath, and Ben Roethlisberger, NUMBERS-WISE). But any quarterback will tell you, the biggest key to their success is an offsetting running game that brings defenders close to the line of scrimmage for the QB to throw over their heads.
From a play-calling standpoint, neglecting to run the football with Green-Ellis when he was as effective as he was, causes the Bengals to lose that playoff game 9 times out 10. Yes, the NFL is a passing league. But in order for the passing game to be successful, there must be a strong threat that the offense will try to ground and pound. A good running game causes the defense to ‘cheat up’ to the line of scrimmage; if that isn’t present, throwing the football 51 times in 60 minutes will never get any team far. That isn’t even a Dalton problem, that’s just terrible play-calling.
Now that Hue Jackson should be in charge of such decisions, it stands to reason that Green-Ellis could still hold value, even if that’s just as a short-yardage back pounding it up the gut on 3rd or 4th and 1 to take the heat off of Dalton’s shoulders. But please Bengals: Don’t cut Green-Ellis. Your quarterback that you will have already sunk $5.2 million in by the end of 2014 needs all the help he can get.