Benson: Midseason MVP

A friend and I were having a conversation the other day regarding who is the Bengals’ MVP at the midway point of the season.

He said defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer – and that’s hard to argue with considering he’s been a godsend for a defense that has struggled for several years. The Bengals had the reputation of being one of the worst defenses in the NFL and it’s taken Zimmer less than two years to turn things around.

In fact, he turned things around last year, just not many people noticed since the offense (and the team’s record) was so bad.

(And yes, to count Zimmer as a candidate for “MVP,” obviously the final letter stands for “person” and not “player.” But we’ll let that slide.)

However, in my view, the clear MVP of the team through eight regular season games is running back Cedric Benson.

I actually had high expectations for him coming into this season. I was impressed with how he ran last year after Cincinnati signed him off the street (literally no one in the NFL wanted him at the time) and I thought he looked good this preseason.

But 837 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and six touchdowns after eight games? No, didn’t exactly expect that. But I will definitely take it.

And Benson has done that against some quality defenses. He’s gone over 100 yards twice against Baltimore as the Bengals swept the season series with the Ravens. He’s also played against Pittsburgh and Denver, and will get another shot at the Steelers this Sunday.

Benson is second in the NFL in rushing yards, behind speed merchant Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans (959 yards). Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings and Steven Jackson of the St. Louis Rams are tied for third with 784 yards.

So, is it too early to call Benson one of the NFL’s elite running backs?

Absolutely not.

He’s not the best – clearly Peterson gets the nod there with Johnson probably second with the way he’s playing. But Benson is definitely among the best.