The Cincinnati Bengals are seriously considering drafting a running back to replace free agent Cedric Benson, so much so that we reported earlier this week that the team may be considering trading up in the draft for Alabama's Trent Richardson. That may not be necessary, however, with developments yesterday out of Oakland.
The Raiders opted to use their franchise tag on safety Tyvon Branch. That almost guarantees that running back Michael Bush will be playing for someone else in 2012. It would be in Bush's best interests to strongly consider coming to Cincinnati to continue his NFL career.
For the Louisville, KY native, coming to Cincinnati would represent an opportunity to play close to his home. As Indianapolis won't be in the market for a running back, Cincinnati represents the best locale for Bush. Bush was a 5-star recruit coming out of Louisville as a duel-threat quarterback and nearly ended up at Ohio State, but chose to stay home and play for the Cardinals in the eleventh hour. Former Cardinal head coach Bobby Petrino reneged on his promise to allow Bush to play quarterback, going with Brian Brohm instead. That meant a switch to tailback for Bush, where he excelled.
A Heisman candidate heading into his senior season, Bush broke his tibia against Kentucky in the season's opening contest. The fracture was so severe it required surgery to implant a metal rod. This isn't really a serious injury concern for potential suitors for Bush. Unlike a ligament injury, broken bones are often stronger, especially with the implants, than they were originally. Reggie Bush in Miami and Leon Washington in Seattle are two players who have recently successfully returned from the injury.
Bush was able to showcase his talents last season in Oakland with the injury to Darren McFadden. Bush started nine games for the Raiders after McFadden's injury. For the season he finished with 977 yards on 256 carries and a 3.8 average per carry. Not only that, but Bush 37 passes for 418 yards. It's this dual threat that makes Bush and ideal fit in offensive coordinator Jay Gruden'ts system.
Cedric Benson successfully resurrected his career in Cincinnati, but he was a back that fit former coordinator Bob Bratkowski's system. Like Rudi Johnson before him, Benson was a stocky battering ram with some burst who could run between the tackles. Last season showed Benson's deficiencies in Gruden's system as he struggled running on the edge and receiving out of the backfield.
Bush brings a more well-rounded skill set to the position. At 6'1" and 245 pounds, he is a back who can get to the edge on stretch plays, catches the ball well out of the backfield, and yet still can move the pile in short yardage situations when called upon. Bush would give Jay Gruden and Andy Dalton a versatile weapon to the offense that they didn't have last season. Bernard Scott certainly brought that edge presence when he was in the game, but he was ineffective running between the tackles. Defenses could scheme specifically for whichever back was in the game. With Bush, the entire field is open.
For Bush, a move to Cincinnati would not only bring him close to home, but give him an opportunity to have his talents fully utilized. In Gruden's system, Bush could put up elite-level numbers, and yet he wouldn't have to carry the ball 30 times a game as the team still would have the capable Scott and Brian Leonard in the wings. It would also reconnect him with his head coach in Oakland, Hue Jackson, who recently signed on with the Bengals.
For Cincinnati, securing Bush at a reasonable price would enable the team to address a pressing need and at the same time keep both their draft picks and use them at other positions, like cornerback and guard, which are also pressing needs.
If they haven't already, the Bengals need to reach out to Bush and get him to Paul Brown Stadium. Let Hue Jackson work his recruiting magic he so successfully employed in getting Carson Palmer to the Raiders. This time though, it won't cost his team any draft choices. It will allow them to keep them.
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