This week in Bengals Breakdown, we’ll analyze the running backs for the Cincinnati Bengals.
The one thing missing from the offense over the past few years has been a difference maker at the running back position. The Bengals have gotten solid contributions over the last 7-8 years from guys like Rudi Johnson, Cedric Benson, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
The most touchdowns in a season came from Rudi Johnson back in 2006 with 12. While all three of the previously mentioned backs offer something in their own way, none of them possessed breakaway speed to keep opposing defenses honest.
Nowhere was this more evident than in last years wild card game in Houston.
The Bengals managed only 80 yards total on the ground as Green-Ellis struggled to find any space and finished with just 63 yards on 11 carries. Cincinnati was forced into throwing the ball and finished the game with zero offensive touchdowns.
The lack of a running game allowed Houston to sit back and force Andy Dalton to make very difficult throws. Meanwhile, the Texans used 140 yards from Arian Foster to set up the play action and allow Matt Schaub the time and space to pick apart the Bengals secondary.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis certainly didn’t blow anyone away in 2012, but he was somewhat effective.
He carried the ball 278 times for 1,094 yards and six touchdowns. He’s a bruiser who can run between the tackles and pick up a tough yard when needed. There is no denying the Bengals will need another solid year from the Law Firm if they want to take the next step in 2013.
However, at some point every team needs a guy who can keep the defense honest and change the game with his speed. Arian Foster proved the value of a shifty running back who can run between the tackles and catch the ball out of the backfield.
Enter Giovani Bernard.
With the 37th pick, the Bengals made Giovani Bernard the first running back taken in the 2013 NFL Draft. Bernard leaves the University of North Carolina after rushing for just under 2,500 yards over the last two seasons in Chapel Hill.
Giovani Bernard brings a spark to the Bengals[/caption]While his 4.53-second time in the 40-yard dash didn’t turn many heads, Bernard is known for his quickness more than straightaway speed. He has been compared to Maurice Jones-Drew in that he is more of a shifty back and eludes tacklers with a variety of moves.
Bernard is also exceptional at catching the ball out of the backfield, something the Bengals haven’t had from the running back position in years. According to Cincinnati.com, the Bengals were the only team in the NFL to not have a running back with a reception over 20 yards this past season.
Much to the chagrin of many fantasy owners, the Bengals could implore a running back by committee in 2013 with Bernard and Green-Ellis splitting the carries. The combination of power and finesse from the Law Firm and Bernard will allow Jay Gruden to be more creative in his offensive schemes and hopefully open up some throwing lanes for Andy Dalton.
Look for the Bengals running game to improve in 2013 and watch out for Giovani Bernard in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race.