Benson gives Bengals’ running game

Published 1:35 am Thursday, November 6, 2008

Running back Cedric Benson’s fairly modest game — 104 yards on 24 carries — was a major breakthrough by Cincinnati Bengals standards. It’s another sign one of their newcomers is quickly turning into a mainstay.

They’re ready to move on again at one of their most unsettled positions.

Benson became the first Bengal to run for 100 yards this season during a 21-19 win over Jacksonville on Sunday. It broke the franchise’s streak of nine straight games since the end of last season without having a running back even come close to triple digits.

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It looks like Benson, whose career was at a crossroads only a few weeks ago, is going to get a lot more chances to run.

The 2005 Bears first-round draft pick has led the Bengals (1-8) in rushing each of the last three games. He has replaced Chris Perry — a 2004 Bengals first-round pick — as the featured back, an indication the team is ready to move on again.

‘‘He is very quick and generally very deliberate in where he goes with the football,’’ coach Marvin Lewis said. ‘‘He has great vision, and he has the speed and quickness when he does get to the next level — better than the guys we’ve had in there before him this year.’’

Benson wasn’t even in their thoughts when the season began. When injuries wiped out their depth at the position, the Bengals signed Benson to a one-year deal on Sept. 30. The Bears had released him in the offseason following two arrests in Texas involving alcohol. Interested teams waited to see how the cases played out before offering a deal.

The cases were dropped when grand juries chose not to indict Benson in September. A few days later, the Bengals, who have a history of taking on players who have been in trouble, brought him aboard. So far, it’s been a good move.

‘‘That’s what I’ve been searching for for a while,’’ Benson said Wednesday. ‘‘To come from being at the house just six weeks ago to getting out there and getting a win, getting 100 yards, helping the team get things turned around — felt really great.’’

The position has been in transition for the last few years.

The Bengals took Perry with the 26th overall pick in 2004, a year after Rudi Johnson had emerged as the starter. They envisioned Perry someday replacing Johnson. It didn’t happen until this season, when Johnson was released and Perry was finally healthy.