Hue Jackson Needs to Solve Bengals’ Running Issues


Sep 14, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson against the Atlanta Falcons at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals have begun their season in tumultuous fashion.  After beginning the season in impressive fashion (3-0), the Bengals were nearly as unimpressive in their next three games against the Patriots, Panthers, and Colts.  The Bengals were trounced by the Patriots, gave away a victory against the Panthers at home, and were shutout by the Colts.

The Bengals were able to get back on track this week by completing a season sweep of the divisional rival Ravens.  But the Bengals need to find some consistency if they are to be successful as the season progresses.  Inconsistency has plagued this team for the past three seasons and will continue to do so if the Bengals cannot solve their issues.  As poor as the defense has looked this year, the Bengals’ running game has been equally as poor and will need to improve if the Bengals are to find success in the second half of the year.

Heading into the 2014 season, there were several reasons to believe the Bengals’ running game was going to improve from last year’s poor performance; the Bengals finished 27th in the league with a 3.6 yards/carry average.  The Bengals drafted Jeremy Hill with their second-round pick, which formed a dynamic duo in the backfield along with Giovani Bernard.  More importantly they hired an offensive coordinator in Hue Jackson who enjoyed great success with the running game while coordinating and leading the Oakland Raiders; Jackson was the offensive coordinator for the Raiders in 2010 and was their head coach in 2011 when the team finished second and seventh in the league respectively in yards/carry.  Each of these moves gave much hope for the Bengals running game.

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Yet this year has been much of the same for the Bengals.  On paper, it may look as though the Bengals have made some improvement at 4.0 yards/carry, but without Giovani Bernard’s 89-yard touchdown scamper, the Bengals have averaged 3.5 yards/carry, which is actually worse than last year.  More than this, Bernard’s yards/carry has worsened, again without his long run, to 3.3 yards/carry.  Jeremy Hill’s presence has also made little difference as he’s averaged 3.9 yards/carry this year.  These kind of averages simply aren’t good enough for long-term success and especially playoff success.

If the Bengals are to find consistency and hence, success going forward, Hue Jackson is going to need to re-establish himself as an effective running coordinator.  It’ll go a long way towards helping the offense while also taking some of the pressure off of the Bengals’ defense which has struggled at times this year while Paul Guenther continues to learn how to be a coordinator in his first year.  The running game has proven to be of paramount importance in the AFC North and in the playoffs.  Hue Jackson has a tall, yet familiar task ahead of him.