Football briefs: Opportunity knocks for Benson in Cincinnati

Pro Football Weekly staff

The Way We Hear It

There is little doubt the Bengals think highly of RB Chris Perry. They were patient with him even after injuries caused him to miss most of the 2004 and ’06 seasons and all of the ’07 campaign, and he rewarded their faith with a very good training camp this season.

When it came time to choose a starting running back, the Bengals chose Perry, not incumbent Rudi Johnson, who was then released.

But Perry hasn’t exactly taken the job and run with it. In his first five starts, Perry fumbled five times, twice more than any other back in the NFL. In a recent interview with PFW, longtime Bengals RB coach Jim Anderson, while chalking up Perry's fumbles to “bad luck,” also noted, “You can find all the reasons, but a running back, his job is to hold onto the ball.”

As Perry has struggled somewhat, new competition for carries in Cincinnati has emerged. Ex-Bear Cedric Benson, signed after injuries to Kenny Watson and DeDe Dorsey, has made a positive first impression with his new club. Already he has earned a role in the offense; just five days after signing with the Bengals, Benson rushed 10 times for 30 yards at Dallas.

Benson fell out of favor with the Bears largely because of qualms about his lack of production in his only season as a starter and disgust over him being arrested twice in the span of a little less than a month in the offseason. (Charges in both cases were dropped the week before he signed with the Bengals.) But Anderson told PFW that Benson looks “rejuvenated” after not being with an NFL club at the beginning of the season.

“Every day he is working to play better,” Anderson said.

In Cincinnati, Benson has gotten a fresh start — and he appears to be making the most of it. If anything, Benson could push for more playing time in the weeks to come, especially if he can become an asset in the passing game. A scenario where Benson and Perry alternate series is not far-fetched. It should be noted the Bengals are still pleased with some of Perry's performance this season, with Anderson praising his versatilty and competitiveness.

The Bengals have been looking for a way to jump-start their running game for the past couple of years. They were 26th in rushing in 2006, 24th in ’07 and 30th heading into Week Six this season. And from the looks of it, more work for Benson might be the next step they take in this regard.

NFL Whispers

Cowboys ORT Marc Colombo quietly is setting himself up for a nice payday this offseason. Though he’s not considered the most athletic tackle in the game, Colombo has shown he can get into space, play with power and he has cut down on his penalties. He could rate as the top free-agent tackle available in next spring’s crop.

The Lions might try to get a few of their younger defensive players, such as LB Jordon Dizon and DE Cliff Avril, more snaps going forward. The problem is that neither have done much to date, and the coaches think they might be a little over their heads at first. The defense can’t afford to get much worse as it is.

The Giants’ defensive ends tend to get most of the credit, but DT Fred Robbins is having a terrific start to his season. He is getting off the snap in a flash and already is threatening his career high for sacks (he has four now), which is 5.5. Robbins sees a lot of single blocking, but he has been an underrated force on the Giants’ front.

The Fantasy Buzz

With injured RB Maurice Morris due back soon, you might not get many more big outings from Seahawks RB Julius Jones, but this week he’s a must-start. The Packers haven’t been able to stop the run, getting gashed for 161.4 yards a game and 5.1 yards per carry. And Jones has been spectacular in his two home games, rushing for a total of 267 yards and two TDs.

“Horrible” would be a good word to describe the Chargers’ play against tight ends this season. Through five games, they’ve already given up five TD catches to tight ends, allowing someone from that position to gain at least 40 yards in each contest. This week, it will be Patriots TE Ben Watson’s turn to exploit this weakness as he has his first productive outing of 2008.

This is not the first time Browns QB Derek Anderson has wound up in the “sit” category, and it probably won’t be the last. He has been a major disappointment thus far, and his struggles likely will persist against the Giants. They are second in the league against the pass and No. 1 in QB sack percentage, meaning Anderson can expect to be under heavy pressure all night.

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