The end of the Bengals’ 2016 regular season rekindled the hunger for a running game. With draft picks and veteran players, get ready for fierce competition.
Life is hard in those AFC North streets. What the Bengals needed most seemed to be what the other teams had. But, was that really the case? Maybe it was just a matter of fans seeing one thing and the facts proving something else. Whatever the case, the Bengals will have to improve their running game to make a comeback. Getting better production from the ground attack will definitely help.
Did things really go sour during the 2016 campaign? Honestly, the numbers don’t lean towards the division foes. According to the lads at ESPN, the Bengals edged out the rest of the AFC North pack. The offense barely squeaked by Pittsburgh but was able to come out on top. Yeah. The Bengals led the North in rushing yards.
Here’s the dilemma. OC Ken Zampese knows that the ground numbers were virtually the same as 2015. Fans are pulling out their hair (myself included) trying to solve the mystery behind the disappearing running game. If all the stats were identical, there has to be a logical explanation for the obvious. Without sounding like Bill Nye The Science Guy, I’ll attempt to give a rundown of what will happen.
The Wake-Up Call
It was a long time coming but it finally happened. Rex Burkhead was let loose upon the NFL landscape and things will never be the same. For some reason, this ball of fire was left standing on the sidelines to collect the dust of playoffs lost. Why? Maybe that question is best answered by Marvelous Marvin Lewis.
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For four years Burkhead has been waiting for a chance to prove himself. Now that the time has come, he may be leaving the Queen City for greener pastures. But, there was something he sparked in the Bengals’ offensive line and minds of Cincinnati faithful. It’s been the missing element that will come back into fashion this season.
This will be the year that Bengals’ running backs get it. Yes, there have been glimpses of the dynamic that the backs lack. But, Burkhead has spearheaded the campaign to get the chi channeled and back on track.
I’m going to say it and be held accountable. The Bengals’ backfield will have passion and desire. A little friendly competition will turn into an urge that will see a 1,000-yard rusher and another that eclipses the 800-yard mark. It’s all very simple. No starter wants to look bad. Burkhead has called their bluff. It’s time to show up or shut up.
Bring The Noise And Bring The Competition
Rex has proven he can thump with the big guys. He dropped the mic and has his B-Boy stance. Now, Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard have to answer the call. But wait…there’s more (always wanted to use that advertising gimmick). If the Bengals can do some damage in the draft and snag Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt, or Joe Mixon, the plot thickens.
Another LSU alum isn’t going to show up Hill. Think of how humiliating that would be to the Terrible Towel Boy. Mixon is instant attitude in a can. Just pop the top and watch him work. Hunt is like a projectile waiting to shred NFL defenses. While Gio gets his knee into prime condition, the competition will be fierce. Think of your favorite Bengals running backs and you’ll relive their drive and hunger. Stanley Wilson, Ickey Woods, James Brooks, and Corey Dillon will all be channeled by the backs in camp.
Having a running back go over 1,000 yards–while being productive in the red zone–is something the Bengals have been missing. Hill crossed the goal line 11 times in 2015. But, his overall impact was down. The 2017 season will see a return of the desire to grind the ball past the pylon. Of course, this all depends on the resurgence of the O-line. Hopefully, Lewis and Co. will understand the importance of bringing back Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler. Along with that, Zampese has to…run the ball. Nevertheless, the competition will be back…with the backs.