Benson Struggles to Catch On

As clear as it is that Thomas Jones isn't on the field for organized team activities, it's as obvious Cedric Benson continues to have issues as a receiver. For Benson to take hold of the starting running back job, he has to find balance in his game.

Throughout mini-camp and OTAs several passes that have gone in Benson's direction have ended up on the ground. He's not a natural receiver out of the backfield and part of that has to do with the offense he played in at Texas. In four seasons with the Longhorns, Benson caught 69 balls.

As a rookie, Benson showed flashes of what made him the fourth overall pick in the 2005 draft. Still, he caught just one pass for three yards.

At the conclusion of the recent mini-camp, Benson admitted the biggest adjustment he needed to make from year one to two was in the passing game. That also includes picking up blitzes, which he's yet to have to do going up against his teammates.

Considering starting quarterback Rex Grossman has an injury history and backup Brian Griese is coming off knee surgery, having an extra blocker in the pocket is important. If the coaching staff doesn't feel Benson can be trusted in the role, he could be limited to being a two down back.

Jones is a proven pass receiver and among the best blocking backs in the league. Skipping the OTAs, as he seeks a new contract, already put him behind Benson on the depth chart. It appears the Bears and Jones' camp are preparing for a long standoff. It could lead to the team trading the only running back in franchise history aside from Walter Payton to rush for more than 1,300 yards in a season.

If Jones' misses any portion of the season or is dealt, the Bears could use Adrian Peterson in the role until Benson is fully capable of being an every down contributor.

Peterson proved a lot last season by averaging 5.1 yards per carry and doing whatever the team asked. He's a good blocker with decent hands and has found snaps difficult to come by in a crowded backfield.

In a perfect world, Benson would develop quickly enough to alleviate much of the concern. However, he's going through the work he missed last training camp and preseason because of his own contract dispute with the Bears.

The running game shouldn't be an issue no matter who is carrying the ball. All three backs averaged over 4.0 yards per attempt last season and the starting offensive line returns intact.

Conversely with a passing offense that ranked 31st in the league, having another target out of the backfield or an extra blocker could make a difference.

Bear Report Top Stories