Why The Larry Johnson Experiment Will Work for the Cincinnati Bengals

Benjamin ConnerContributor INovember 17, 2009

CINCINNATI - DECEMBER 28: Kyries Hebert #34 of the Cincinnati Bengals tackles Larry Johnson #27 of the Kansas City Chiefs near the endzone late in the fourth quarter during the NFL on December 28, 2008 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

UPDATE: I think it is important to note, while I do not condone what LJ did to be dismissed from his team, I just see this as an opportunity, a free agent signing if you will, for a fresh start for LJ. Life gives you second chances, let's see what he does with the opportunity.

Larry Johnson signed with the Bengals as a "backup" to be fourth on the depth chart. Not so long ago LJ had back-to-back 1,700 yards season in Kansas City and was considered a fantasy superstar.

Since then he has been plagued with suspensions and inept offenses that had him fall off the radar for most people.

Cincinnati has already established firm control of the AFC North, and at 7-2, they control their destiny on the road to the playoffs. The Bengals have already suffered injuries to many positions and are still running like a well oiled machine.

The Bengals find ways to win (what any championship team does). They come from behind, they get it done on defense, they win games with special teams, and they beat teams on the road. For the first time they are 5-0 in the division with another game against the dysfunctional Browns. Wrap that up to a franchise best 6-0.

Because Cincinnati is rolling so smoothly, there is absolutely no pressure on LJ to perform. All he has to do is show up and get his reps in. His power game matches that of Cedric Benson, and unless injury prevents Benson to play, don’t expect to see Johnson on the field. It is unlikely they will split reps, especially considering how well backup Bernard Scott is running with his change of pace running style.

Expect Scott to become a bigger part of the offense in the coming weeks.

Marvin Lewis has been known in Bengaldom as a no-nonsense kind of person. He comes from great pedigree with his raising and learning in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. This is exactly the type of coach that can handle LJ’s character.  Do not expect LJ to be much of a distraction with Marvin Lewis in charge.

Mike Brown has a history of bringing players back with character issues. But don’t worry the year of having nine players arrested, the Bengals are far removed, with the only player left on the roster from that year is Frostee Rucker, all others have been cut and have moved on.

Carson Palmer remains the Bengals best kept secret. Not only has he added five fourth quarter comebacks to his resume this year, but his passing stats are just getting more and more efficient. The Bengals have a tremendously balanced attack between their air and ground game.

With a lot of credit due to Benson, defenses know what Palmer can do with a simple flick of his wrist. Palmer is also the franchise quarterback for the Bengals—he is established, and there is no question on his leadership abilities.

If LJ doesn’t respect the way the Bengals are moving, expect Palmer to just change the play and throw the ball until LJ realizes he is just a piece of the puzzle.

The Bengals offensive line has established itself as a gritty and very physical unit, taking on five of the league’s top defenses and amassing 100 yards against four of the five. They do not allow many sacks and rush the ball very efficiently. 

With all these pieces in the puzzle, expect LJ to play in a system where he can flourish. Unlike Kansas City, he comes to a team that can pass the ball effectively. 

If the Larry Johnson experiment doesn’t work out, the Bengals lose only half the salary of a league minimum, but if it does work, the benefits will be astronomical. He is an insurance policy and when you have a thoroughbred like Benson pounding the ball, injuries will happen. This will keep the Bengals ground game moving in the right direction.