The Cincinnati Bengals and new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson have made it clear that they plan to run the ball in 2014. The team finished 18th in the league in rushing yards last season, but more importantly, 27th in yards per attempt at just 3.6 yards. Injuries along the offensive line were certainly a factor, but as the season wore on, fans became more and more distraught at the play of veteran running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who was effective in short-yardage situations, but struggled elsewhere.
Going into this offseason, fans expected to see more of second-year back Giovani Bernard, allowing “The Law Firm” to focus on situations where a tough yard or two was needed. However, the Bengals surprised a lot of people by using another second round pick on the running back position by taking Jeremy Hill in this year’s draft. Could Hill’s arrival signal Green-Ellis’ departure?
One thing for the Bengals to consider in the situation is, of course, money. Green-Ellis is easily the highest paid running back on the roster, with a cap number of $3 million. The team isn’t hurting for cash, but with contracts looming for Andy Dalton and Vontaze Burfict, a couple of extra million dollars isn’t a bad thing. Bernard and Hill both make far less money.
The biggest reason, though, is simply production. Green-Ellis has been an important member of the team over the past few seasons, but his numbers are lackluster to say the least. Bernard brings speed and excitement, and will warrant more touches in 2014. Hill hasn’t played yet, of course, but he’s bigger, stronger, faster, and a better receiver than the veteran. Hill is huge, but he’s also deceptively fast and unlike his counterpart, he can take a carry and go the distance on a given play. When Green-Ellis is in the game, teams aren’t afraid of long runs, and will creep the safeties into the box. With Hill in the game, that won’t be the case.
Green-Ellis is a respected player who has heavily contributed to the franchise’s success in the past few years. Coaches love him, and he’s definitely a positive in the locker room. However, the addition of Hill, and the emergence of Bernard as a homerun threat, might spell the end of Green-Ellis’ time in Cincinnati. The team will likely carry four running backs on the team, and with Cedric Peerman’s special teams ability, he appears safe. Green-Ellis would then be in competition with Rex Burkhead for the final spot. As mentioned, Burkhead is a much cheaper option at the number four spot, and that might be the difference. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been a big part of the Bengals’ success, but he might be on the outside looking in for the 2014 season.