After an unexpectedly rough start to the season, Bengals fans have found themselves without much to cheer about. But with the re-emergence of Jeremy Hill, their team might have a new player to rally behind.
We’ve seen flashes. Hints. Little glimmers of hope that Jeremy Hill might be back to his rookie season form. This game against the Browns was the big reveal. Jeremy Hill is back.
Yes, cynical observer, no one should get too excited after one great rushing performance against the Cleveland Browns. But this wasn’t the first time Hill had shown what he could do this season. This game was verification of a Bengals rushing attack reality.
Let’s revisit the Denver game in Week 3. In the Bengals’ first drive on offense, Jeremy Hill took the team 65 yards downfield for a touchdown on just four carries. And this was against the Denver Broncos, a modern-day defensive dynasty known for stuffing the run. Hill wasn’t just good- he was dominant.
Hill has been the Bengals’ only source of life in the run game. Giovani Bernard has had his fair share of carries over the first few weeks of the season, but he hasn’t proven he’s anything for defenses to worry about. He’s been a fine option for 3.4 YPC, but he’s shown no explosiveness. The Bengals problem with offensive stagnation can’t be solved with Giovani Bernard.
Cincinnati has won three games this season. In those three games, AJ Green has had 180, 173, and 169 yards receiving, respectively. In all of our losses, he’s failed to top 90 yards. The Bengals’ offense has entirely hinged upon its opponents’ ability to shut down AJ Green. Cincinnati needs another difference maker. Jeremy Hill has shown he has it in him to carry the team.
Hill’s detractors will point to all of his stats before Week 7. They’ll point out that before this game, he hadn’t broken 100 yards rushing. That he’s only achieved 3.5 YPC once. That he’s not what this game would indicate. Those are all fine points. But consider his history in the NFL.
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Jeremy Hill has always been a runner built for the second half of the season. Look at his stats. Look at his running style. In his best season, 2014, Hill did virtually nothing before Week 8, when he went off for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He’s a grind-it-out, CJ-Anderson-type runner that’s always going to run at his opponents with power. He’s not afraid to get dirty between the tackles. As defenses tire from fatigue as the season wears on, Jeremy Hill gets stronger.
What’s working against Hill this year- injuries and a bad offensive line. The Bengals won’t give up on starting Cedric Ogbuehi at right tackle, who’s found himself benched for Eric Winston twice in the past three weeks. Hill’s also been dealing with an under-the-radar shoulder injury, which could spell trouble for the third-year back. His 2015 season was derailed by a generally unknown knee issue.
While he’s certainly not been perfect to this point, there’s reason to believe Jeremy Hill is back in the saddle in Cincinnati. If that’s the case, it might be just what the Bengals need to save their quickly sinking season.