Injuries to the running back position are making head coach Marvin Lewis’ decision that much more difficult, thanks to the season-ending injury to rookie RB Kenny Irons. Some of the options available to the Bengals are: expanding the roles by the current backups, signing a veteran free agent, or a decision that could explode in the team’s face: give current starting RB Rudi Johnson the ball more. In this day and age of sharing the running load, having Johnson taking the bulk of the carries may or may not have some merit.
While it is true that Johnson is durable (1,039 carries since the 2004 season), they have options, albeit unattractive ones. They have Kenny Watson and Quincy Wilson. For now, Johnson has two individuals on his side: himself and Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. As Johnson told Mark Curnutte of the Cincinnati Enquirer on Sunday after afternoon practice, he said, “That’s my game. It’s why I train so hard. I come in. I am ready to play every game, week in and week out. I have to be ready and fresh whenever my number is called.”
I would imagine that right now, the Bengals miss Irons’ presence as he would have provided the team with that “change-of-pace” RB that every team needs to keep the starting RB fresh. The RB free-agent pool is rather thin, yet the Bengals may explore that option. Watson is an unknown commodity, and Wilson is very inexperienced. I would venture to say that Johnson will get more carries out of neccessity, and the duo of Watson/Wilson will get situational carries. So expect around 25 carries/game out of Johnson this season. I am sure the rest of the league and most definitely the AFC North are taking note of this situation and planning accordingly.
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