Sep 13, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) is pursued by Oakland Raiders safety Larry Asante (42) on a 3-yard touchdown run in the first quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jeremy Hill is the most talented running back on the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster, but he has struggled so far in 2015. Hill’s issues holding onto the ball and low yards-per-carry could be concerning to Bengals coaches, and if backup Giovani Bernard continues to excel with increasing reps, Jeremy Hill could potentially lose his spot in the starting lineup. So the question must be asked: Is Jeremy Hill’s role as the starting running back even remotely in jeopardy?
Don’t get me wrong–I’m not trying to clickbait readers into thinking that Jeremy Hill isn’t Cincinnati’s starter. Hill is clearly the Bengals’ guy at running back–and rightfully so. He’s more explosive of a runner than Bernard, he’s bigger–and less likely to get injured with the larger workload–and is the more talented of the two running backs.
The combination of Hill’s power and Bernard’s quickness makes a serious case for the Bengals boasting the NFL’s best running back duo. But if Jeremy Hill doesn’t show as much potential in 2015 as he showed throughout the second half of his rookie year, the Bengals coaching staff will have a difficult decision to make. Jeremy Hill is a great running back, but his backup, Giovani Bernard, is talented enough to start for at least 10 NFL teams.
As of Week 3 in the regular season, I do not believe Jeremy Hill’s spot as the starting running back is even remotely in jeopardy. Hill will have every opportunity to prove himself throughout the year, even if he fumbles five more times throughout the season. Marvin Lewis and Cincinnati’s coaching staff saw some incredible potential from Hill throughout the 2014 season, so giving up on Hill this early in his career makes virtually no sense. Barring injury, Jeremy Hill will start at running back for the rest of this season so that coaches will be able to assess whether or not he gives this team the best chance of winning while he’s in the starting lineup.
Sep 20, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones (left) celebrates his touchdown catch with teammate running back Jeremy Hill (32) in the first half against the San Diego Chargers at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
While Giovani Bernard is a great running back, he’s better suited for a complimentary role than he is for a role that requires 15 or more carries per game. I’m not saying that Bernard can’t excel as a bell cow running back; I simply think that his talents are best utilized as a change-of-pace guy who can come in and run all over the defense after the starting running back wears it down. Chris Wesseling of NFL.com has Gio Bernard ranked as the NFL’s best satellite back, meaning that although he’s not perfectly suited for a starting role, he’s the running back most capable of gashing through a defense when he has space around him.
Remember, the Bengals initially drafted Gio Bernard as a compliment to former starter, BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Cincinnati never seemed to expect Bernard to command more than 10 carries per game; rather, it utilizes Bernard as a scat back who can both excel in the running game and catch balls out of the backfield, proving to be a threat in the receiving game.
At the end of the day, Cincinnati wants Hill to remain the starting back. While the Bengals may have benched him after his two fumbles in Cincinnati’s Week 2 victory over the Chargers, they still have full confidence in Hill as the Bengals’ bell cow back; this is evident in the fact that the Bengals gave Hill 12 carries in Cincinnati’s win at Baltimore. Let’s also remember that Jeremy Hill is an extremely talented running back who is still capable of making his first Pro Bowl in 2015. Although this slow start to Hill’s 2015 season could be a cause of concern, it could just as well be a routine slow start.
The bottom line is that while Hill’s struggles could be concerning for Bengals fans, his place on the starting lineup is nowhere near in jeopardy.