Bengals RB Brian Leonard Leaping into Larger Role?

In today’s DDN, Big C has a nice piece on the evolving role of RB Brian Leonard.  The fourth-year back from Rutgers, stolen in a lopsided trade from the St. Louis Rams in 2009, has become an instant playmaker in the Bengals’ third down packages. However, the report contends that he could see more action in other down-and-distance situations.

“He has a tremendous amount of versatility and he can add to our offense,” runningbacks coach Jim Anderson said. “We’re counting on him to play at an even higher level this season.”

“Flyin’ Brian” has endeared himself to the Bengal faithful with his signature “Leonard Leap” and for making numerous huge plays on third downs.  Perhaps most memorable was his 11 yard catch and run on fourth-and-ten versus Pittsburgh, in which he juked two Steeler defenders before lunging for the needed yardage in what would be the game winning drive.

The coaches believe I can do it and feel comfortable with me at any position,” Leonard was quoted as saying. “My reps have increased, and I’m expected to be more involved in the offense. I’m a team player and will do whatever is asked of me.”

Look for some sets with Leonard in as a fullback with Cedric Benson or Bernard Scott as the team looks to give Carson Palmer more options. Having Leonard and big Ced on the field at the same time should give the offense the ability to continue to play smash mouth while also allowing the team to go deep with capable blockers and check-down receivers in the backfield.

Of course, the one semi-controversial point in the article is a comparison between Leonard and former Jets and Redskins great John Riggins. Florio over at PFT made it a point to dissect this part of the article (rather than focus on…you know…football).  It’s become this huge discussion about comparing white players to other white players, and he even goes so far as to try to debunk it by comparing Leonard’s stats, as a third down back, to Riggins’ stats as a primary ball carrier.  Florio as per usual doesn’t bother to read the article or consider Leonard’s role in the offense, but instead wants to stir up a hornet’s nest.

As for me, I don’t compare Leonard to anyone.  I see a tough kid, an athletic playmaker, and a team player.  Good enough for me.

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