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Benson the Key to the Bengals Offense in 2011?

Arim Karimian of USA Today reports that the Bengals plan to take on a new offensive identity next season and current Bengals running back Cedric Benson couldn’t be happier.

Cincinnati hired Jay Gruden as its offensive coordinator two weeks ago to replace the fired Bob Bratkowski. Under Bratkowski, the Bengals offense was ranked 20th last season and 27th in rushing.

Gruden plans to change that and stress a strong running game. “We’re not going to spread out and go no-huddle every down and throw the ball 65 times a game,” said Gruden. “I intend on pounding the ball and being able to pound the ball.”

That’s welcome news for Benson, who’s scheduled to become a free agent on March 4 but wants to remain in Cincinnati. Benson, 28, is coming off his second consecutive 1,000-yard season and knows his next deal could be his final long-term contract. Once thought of as a first-round bust, Benson has shed that label with the Bengals.

“I got there, I worked my butt off, I ran hard, played hard, and I’m looking for my stuff,” said Benson.

“I would think if you’re the owner of a team, you would want to pay a guy like me. I’ve been solid, I’ve produced, you know what you’re going to get from me. I want to come back. I want to play there. I’ve gotten a lot of love and support from people. I hope it works out.”

Gruden’s vow to run the ball more appeals to Benson, explaining why he’d be keen to return to a franchise with two winning seasons in the last 20 years. “I intend on pounding the ball and being able to pound the ball,” said Benson. “Well, that’s my kind of guy [Gruden]. That’s my game. I’m excited about this guy. I think Gruden is exactly what Cincinnati needs. I think it’s going to be an exciting season.”

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