The Cincinnati Bengals are hoping to add a dimension to their offense that they’ve never truly had during the tenure of head coach Marvin Lewis. That is, a running back who can not only break-off long runs, but use his speed and elusiveness to make holes to run through where there typically wouldn’t be for a slower back (i.e. BenJarvus Green-Ellis) while also possessing the hands and route-running ability to be a pass-catching threat.
They may have finally found a back with all of those traits in North Carolina rookie Giovani Bernard, and Mike Tanier of Sports on Earth and the Football Outsiders named Beranrd to his “NFL’s Who’s Next List“:
The screen pass. The check down. They are simple plays, easy to take for granted, until your offense is terrible at executing them. Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis has never been an effective receiver, and the team resorted to plodding Brian Leonard and journeyman Cedric Peerman as its receiving backs last year. The result: No Bengals running back had a reception longer than 16 yards, and the defense had a reliable “tell” about what the Bengals planned to do, based on which back was in the game.
Bernard caught 92 passes in two seasons at North Carolina, including six receiving touchdowns. He also rushed for 2,481 yards in those two seasons. He is the kind of multi-faceted player who can diversify the passing game and take carries away from Law Firm. Bernard rushed for two preseason touchdowns in the Bengals’ first three games, but more importantly, he caught six passes, including a 22-yarder. A few extra yards on short passes don’t seem like much, but for a playoff team trying to get over the first-round hump, they add up.