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Cincinnati Bengals: Earning Their Stripes, Jeremy Hill

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Nov 2, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars safety Josh Evans (26) tackles Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, so the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. This might be the least surprising thing football fans read all day yesterday.  Reading further, however, fans will see this guy Jeremy Hill who had the best rushing stat line of the game with 24 carries for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

What the casual fan may not know is this is the most yards a Bengals running back has had in one game since Cedric Benson racked up 189 yards in 2009 against the Chicago Bears.  That was Benson’s chance to get back at his old team in a 45-10 beat down of the Bears at Paul Brown Stadium.  It’s been over five years since a Bengal has rushed for that many yards.  This is exactly the kind of foreshadowing Marvin Lewis, Hue Jackson and Duke Tobin had when they drafted Hill this past May.

The Cincinnati Bengals have been looking for an identity since last season, and in a game where Giovani Bernard was out and A.J. Green had just come back from a toe injury, they needed to establish their identity against a normally stout Jacksonville defense.   Gus Bradley, the Jaguars head coach and former Seahawks defensive coordinator, helped coach his defense to 26 sacks entering Sunday’s game.  This is not a front four that allows themselves to get pushed around.

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Enter Jeremy Hill, rookie from LSU, wearing the familiar number 32 that Cedric Benson also wore.  Hill has provided a spark throughout the season and more importantly, he’s earned trust of his offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.  Hill displayed his cutback ability, speed burst, and ability to make 230 pounds as elusive as 230 pounds can be (Hill’s listed weight).  Overall, the Bengals established an identity up front as a hard-nosed, smash-mouthed, in-your-face AFC North run-dominant team.

Dominating the line of scrimmage is what this team needs to do down the stretch.  The Bengals are atop the AFC North, and to win their second consecutive AFC North title, they are going to have to win some very physical games in order to earn some home field advantage in the playoffs.  This is only accomplished with the kind of performance churned out by the Bengals’ offense on Sunday.  The Bengals need to show that this is more than just a once in a while occurrence, and must carry over this momentum into Thursday night when they host the division rival Cleveland Browns.  Until then, Jeremy Hill, well done young man, you “earned your stripes.”

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