Should Giovani Bernard Be Starting For The Bengals?

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Dec 28, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) runs with the ball during the second half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 20-17 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 28, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) runs with the ball during the second half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 20-17 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /
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Giovani Bernard is a true beast, in space. After gaining 1,202 yards from scrimmage, should he be the Bengals starting back?

The thud of pads and grunts of repetition are around the corner. Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp starts in 11 days. The quest for AFC North domination will once again consume the emotions of the faithful.  Jeremy Hill has pledged his commitment to being better. But not much has been said about Giovani Bernard. The duo has provided sparkling performances for Cincinnati fans. But, should Bernard get the nod? 

Per Cincy Jungle, Gio was the focal point of a rules change. The Ryan Shazier decapitation that took Bernard out of the Wild Card game is now illegal. If officials would have gotten it right, during the game, Cinderella would be wearing a different pair of Timberlands. In other words, if Bernard wasn’t knocked out of the game, the Bengals were a sure bet to win.

It’s time to focus. Try to forget the insanity of that January evening and concentrate on the Bengals’ running back situation. Looking at things from a fan’s perspective, the Bengals are set. Having the luxury of two talented sets of wheels in the backfield is great. But turning on analyst mode tells another story. Was their production the same?

Hill wasn’t the focus of former coordinator Hue Jackson’s affections. In the passing game, he was targeted 19 times and snagged 15 receptions. Bernard’s numbers are more telling. The Little Big Man was targeted 66 times. Amazingly, Bernard was able to catch a whopping 74.2 percent of the passes.

On the ground, the Bengals’ backs were able to combine for 1,524 yards. Bernard was responsible for 730. The fact that Bernard rumbled for 64 fewer yards isn’t the argument. The number 1,202 is a game changer. Bernard was able to amass that amount of total yardage from scrimmage. He was just seven yards shy of tying his 2013 total. 

Even if Bernard isn’t handed the starting position, his numbers are worthy of the consideration. Having his speed on the field is a definite plus.

Utilizing him in a one-two punch with Hill would be interesting to see. Offensive coordinator Ken Zampese may have some tricks up his sleeve. Giving the Bengals two running back sets could cause a ton of problems. Defenses would be forced to respect play fakes. Who would benefit, outside of Hill and Bernard? A.J. Green and the cast of downfield burners would have one less safety to be concerned with.

The Bengals have addressed the need for Bernard’s shiftiness, by extending his contract. If Hill struggles early—trying to average more than three yards per pop—Marvin Lewis may be forced to explore the option of Gio as the starter.

Starting a petition to make Bernard the No.1 back isn’t the solution. Bengals fans will get their answer, as the season unfolds and emotions turn to desire. In those moments, truth becomes undeniable.  

Next: The Big Picture

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