Over the past two seasons, no running back duo in the NFL has been more productive than Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard.
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Mercurial linebacker Vontaze Burfict met running back Giovani Bernard just behind the line of scrimmage and finished the tackle low, wrapping his arms between Bernard’s knees and calves. Bernard, for those who don’t remember, tore his ACL in November but did seem to hop up unscathed after the tackle.
You can’t convince me that projector penises don’t get drawn in 80 percent of all NFL position meetings, but it was still great to see Margus getting in on the fun. All of that was more than enough to make the rookie show a success, but then came wide receiver Roy Roundtree and his RUTHLESS Taylor Mays impression, and it put the entire thing over the top. We don’t have video, but he kind of made Mays look like an androgynous, overzealous exercise instructor, and he clearly nailed it because the room went insane. Long live the Rookie Talent Show.
Now that Bernard is out of the backfield rotation, Rex Burkhead is an obvious candidate to pick up snaps in obvious passing situations while Jeremy Hill shoulders more of the running workload.
If Sunday was Marvin Lewis’ final home game as head coach of the Bengals after 15 years, his players fought for him. Cincy’s defense overcame more injuries — including Vontaze Burfict leaving early again — to frustrate Stafford. The offense finally found life behind Giovani Bernard. The jitterbug running back carried the load after Joe Mixon exited with an ankle injury in the first half. Bernard powered through Lions defenders for 116 yards on 23 carries and added 52 yards on seven receptions. His touchdown dash to the edge in the closing minutes sealed the victory. With Bernard churning out yards, the offense opened up for the Andy Dalton-A.J. Green connection to finally find some life. Mixon and Bernard in the backfield sets a solid foundation for whoever is coaching the Bengals in 2018.
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After practice, however, Burfict and Bernard shared a laugh and Bernard downplayed what happened. “He slipped,” Bernard told reporters, via The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Hue Jackson trending toward a downhill running game in Cincinnati makes plenty of sense for a team with shoddy quarterback play and a solid offensive line, but Jeremy Hill’s emergence likely means a diminished or different role for Bernard. Aside from their playoff shellacking at the hands of the Colts, a game in which they needed points in a hurry, Bernard ceded primary control of the backfield to Hill down the stretch last season. If a team wants to make Bernard its passing-down back, that’s fine with me. He’s plenty good at it. Let’s just make it the right team.
Minus departed free agents Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, Bernard was often the second or third option in a passing game that has lacked a viable complement to Green.
This is a guy you want to target in trades as soon as possible. Bernard made Around the NFL’s Chris Wesseling’s list of top pass-catching backs too, which is a sign that fantasy owners shouldn’t worry about his slow Week 1. In his article, Wesseling states, “From Week 1 through Week 17 last year, you could count on one hand the number of running backs who outplayed Bernard: Doug Martin, Adrian Peterson, Todd Gurley and Freeman.”
Bernard’s third-down usage was among the tops in the cheap NFL jerseys but it doesn’t necessarily mean he was actually touching the ball on all of those snaps. In fact, he only touched the ball 39 times out of 169 third down plays, or 23 percent.
As Alex Gelhar pointed out in his biggest disappointments piece, Joe Mixon was lauded as the most purely talented runner of the 2017 class, and was expected to leap Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard as Cincy’s lead back. Mixon did get a significant amount of work and led the Bengals in touches and scrimmage yards, but he averaged a meager 3.5 yards per carry, ranking him 41st out of 47 backs who logged 100 or more attempts. He eclipsed 100 rush yards just once all season and while some of his lackluster production can be attributed to the broken offense that Cincinnati was rolling out on a weekly basis, Bernard seemed to have no issue producing, as Matt Harmon pointed out. Mixon will likely be a value pick in drafts next summer.