What Bengals Should Do With Giovani Bernard in 2015
Dec 22, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) celebrate after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
When the 2015 season rolls around the Bengals’ offense should look different than it did even in 2014. Although the Bengals emphasized the running game this past season, even that should look slightly different.
Jeremy Hill will be the team’s lead back for the entire season in 2015. This wasn’t the case in 2014. Hue Jackson chose to Giovani Bernard the bulk of the carries to start the season. Slowly the carries started began to fall into Hill’s hands when Bernard got hurt. Once Hill became the team’s starting running back, he became one of the league’s most prolific rushers, which is the biggest reason he should and will carry the load next season.
Because of this, Hill will likely take some carries away from Bernard. If Bernard’s carries were decreased, that would typically mean he would see less snaps. But this is unacceptable when considering the kind of weapon Bernard has proven himself to be. So what should the Bengals do with Bernard in 2015?
Giovani Bernard will still function as the team’s second back spelling Hill when necessary. But this shouldn’t deter the Bengals from employing double running back sets often. They would still have Rex Burkhead to spell both players when necessary, but more importantly this set would give opposing defenses fits.
Bernard is a highly capable receiver and should be utilized as one in the coming year. The Bengals currently lack a quick slot receiver. Giovani Bernard could be the team’s answer there. Can you imagine the conundrum defenses would face with both Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard on the field. The Bengals could run all kinds of motion pre-snap force defenses to show their hand. This would help Andy Dalton get a better read on defenses prior to the snap.
More than this, defenses would have to decide how to deal with the duo. Do they keep an extra linebacker on the field to stop the run? If they do this, they would risk having to use a linebacker to cover Bernard and Bernard proved time and time again this past season that a linebacker isn’t going to be able to cover him.
But if a defense chooses to employ an extra defensive back to deal with Bernard, this opens the field up for Jeremy Hill who is very proficient in tackle breaking. Having five linemen and a tight end or fullback in front of Hill all but ensures he’ll gain five yards.
Employing Bernard as a receiver would also help the Bengals matchup well against the league’s bigger cornerbacks. The NFL has been emphasizing these types of players in recent years, but this past year also showed fans the answer to these players, quickness. Often times, these bigger corners aren’t as quick or fluid as they need to be when trying to cover smaller, quicker receivers. Bernard would certainly qualify as this type of receiver.
Also worth noting about Bernard as a receiver, his isn’t one of those guys who can’t catch passes down the field. This was evidenced by Bernard’s impressive over-the-shoulder, along the sideline, with a hand in his face catch he had on a Mohamed Sanu pass last season.
Giovani Bernard played on 47.9% of snaps in 2014. If he loses carries to Jeremy Hill in the coming year, his snaps would typically decrease. If the Bengals were to employ the two-back set regularly while utilizing Bernard as a receiver more often, they would still benefit from his presence. As creative as Hue Jackson is, it’s well within reason to assume he can come up with some great plays when employing these ideas. Hopefully Bernard will be a main beneficiary of that creativity and continue making the game-changing plays we’ve come to expect from him.
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