Giovani Bernard is X-factor versus Broncos


Dec 14, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back

Giovani Bernard

(25) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Giovani Bernard‘s 2014 campaign has been rather lackluster through 14 games this year.  His ability to gain yards on the ground simply hasn’t been there as he hasn’t improved from his rookie season.  This could be attributed to several factors, but regardless of the reasoning, the point is Bernard’s year hasn’t gone as planned.

This Monday when the Bengals face the Denver Broncos, Giovani Bernard will have an opportunity to make an impact on this season in a way he has yet to.  Bernard’s presence is going to force the Broncos to make some difficult decisions when he’s on the field.

The Broncos primarily employ the nickel defense.  Here’s a breakdown of the Broncos’ secondary and how many snaps they’ve played.

[table id=79 /]

With the Broncos employing at least five guys in the secondary 75% of the time, they’ve chosen to emphasize speed rather than load “the box” against the run with extra linebackers, and it’s clearly worked out thus far; the Broncos currently stand as the league’s second best running defense.  Part of the reason for this standing is T.J. Ward‘s adeptness for playing in “the box.”

With the Bengals possessing one of the league’s best running offenses, Ward will likely have to utilize all his talents against the run this week. The Broncos can spare Ward from the secondary due to their stellar cornerbacks.  Both Chris Harris and Aqib Talib are quality corners who’ll likely give the Bengals outside receivers difficulty.  This while safety Rahim Moore is likely to help out against a guy like A.J. Green.  When considering this and the Bengals ability to run the ball, the Broncos’ defense will be very busy on the outside and in “the box.”  This leaves the short and intermediate part of the field potentially exposed.  And this is where Giovani Bernard comes in.

Giovani Bernard can help the Bengals’ offense in a couple of vital ways Monday.  First, while there’s little doubt that the Bengals will need to run the ball effectively, they will have to throw it at some point.

The Bengals’ offensive line will face a stern test from

Von Miller

(58) and

DeMarcus Ware

(94) on Monday night. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

These moments will be a particular challenge for the Bengals as the Broncos’ pass rushing duo of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware ranks amongst the league’s best; T-3rd in the league with 23 combined sacks behind only Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry (23.5) and Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs (28).  This means Andy Dalton will need to get the ball out of his hands quickly, and Giovani Bernard could be the prime target in such circumstances.

Beyond this, Giovani Bernard could find some favorable matchups this week.  With the Broncos’ defense tied up with the outside receivers and the running game, the middle of the field could be “soft” especially when considering the Broncos will likely be without both Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall.  Bernard will likely see 1:1 matchups and space to work with.  This situation plays to the strengths of Bernard and will allow him every opportunity to find success on Sunday.

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The Bengals are loaded with offensive weapons, and while the Broncos have several defensive playmakers of their own, a 1:1 matchup is likely inevitable for Giovani Bernard.  If he can find success on Monday, he’ll force the Broncos to make some very difficult decisions.  They’ll be left to choose between spreading out the defense to counter the passing game or continuing to crowd the front to counter Jeremy Hill and the running game.  Once faced with these types of choices, Hue Jackson and the Bengals’ offense will have an easier time choosing where to attack the Broncos.  It’s exactly what the Bengals will need if they are to lock up a playoff spot on Monday night.