When the Cincinnati Bengals ended last year, it was clear that Vontaze Burfict was the team MVP for the 2013 season. He picked up the defense when it’s leader, Geno Atkins, went down with an ACL tear, and league in combined tackles. So, What about this year? Who will be the Bengals next rising?
Last year, Giovani Bernard got his feet wet in an offense that seemed to abandon the run quickly in games, and when he had opportunities to shine, he did just that. Who can forget the Miami game where he bounced off of tacklers, reversed field, and scored. His stats though didn’t reflect the team’s best run in years.
This year, I think it can be different. He has a familiar face on the offensive line. Russell Bodine was the center in North Carolina and he played in front of Bernard there. Bodine will have a better handle on Bernard’s tendencies in the run game, and likewise, Bernard knows how to read Bodine’s blocks and assignments.
Now, I am not saying that he is suddenly going to adopt the ground and pound style of running, but what I am saying is it reading blocks and adjusting his running line could help the run game become a more solid place in the Bengals offense. It also means that Giovani Bernard has a better chance to get comfortable in the back field and in his running back duties this season.
I think Bernard has a strong potential to get over 1,000 rushing yards and increasing his goal line production with 10 touchdowns, essentially doubling his production from last year. It is never a gaurentee, but if he can continue to improve and become the Bengals primary back, then his stock will soar.
Giovani Bernard is my pick for this season’s best potential to be the next rising star in Cincinnati.