Jeremy Hill was a disappointing part of the Cincinnati Bengals 2016 season. But, the situation could change dramatically during the draft.
There’s nothing like a good old helping of competition when it comes to discovering the truth. Before the Cincinnati Bengals kick off the regular season, there’s a hint of controversy brewing about the running back situation. Actually, there’s more than an inkling of disagreement going on. With their first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, don’t be surprised if Marvin Lewis and Co. snag a chess piece to give Jeremy Hill a little nudge.
The offseason is about rumors and widespread speculation based upon the prior years. But, when the actions fit the gossip, it may be time to pay closer attention. No, that’s not saying that fans have to say goodbye to Hill being the man to beat. But, it does mean that a change could be in order. Hill has been a shell of his rookie self. The 2014 season was one that made him the second coming of Jim Brown or James Brooks. Well…at least he channeled their speed, agility and brute strength.
The 2015 campaign was truly a disappointment for Bengals fans. Let me rephrase that. The 12-4 record tied the franchise’s best mark for W’s. A majority of the frustration came from Hill’s inability to recapture what he let loose the prior year.
The Problem…And Solution
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With Rex Burkhead giving Bengals fans (and NFL defenses) a ninja-kick to the psyche, there was suddenly another answer to the problem. Unfortunately, Burkhead could be another casualty in the free agent wars lurking around the bend.
If the Bengals keep Burkhead in the Queen City, the battle for backfield supremacy heats up. But, if T-Rex runs for the cash, there’s always the chance a quality running back is available when Cincinnati’s pick rolls around. Duke Tobin, Bengals’ director of player personnel, has hinted that there isn’t anything written in stone. Fans are salivating over the possibility of big names coming to town. Suddenly, it seems that the best player (even if he’s a running back) could be wearing Orange and Black.
"“If the back is worth it – Adrian Peterson – if the guy is a difference maker it doesn’t really matter what position he’s going to be a difference maker,” Tobin calmly explained, via Bengals.com. “Zeke (Elliot) was that way. He was a great difference-maker, he got behind a great offensive line, they featured him and he really took off.”"
I’m not a betting man. But, that direct mention of Adrian Peterson really stuck out. Are the Bengals using subliminal messages to tell fans their picks? Meh. Maybe Tobin wants Hill to get his act right and show he’s worth the loot. Essentially, It’s a wake-up call and audition for the next starter.
Can Hill Make A Comeback?
Jeremy Hill has to think about what he wants to be and stick to that image. Either he wants to be a downhill runner (throwing bows and stiff arms) or a shifty RB with lightning speed. It’s possible to have both, but Hill excels at the latter.
Lewis hasn’t given up on Hill. In fact, he made sure Bengals fans understood what was happening with Jeremy during the 2016 season. It wasn’t about Hill not having the strength or will to be better. Lewis explained how Jeremy was dealing with injuries that went unnoticed.
"“Jeremy played injured last year and it probably got him into some bad habits. When we needed him to play he stayed in there and played. We knew internally he was hurt. A lot of guys wouldn’t have been able to deal with the pain that he dealt with the first and mid part of the season.”"
Lewis has also stated that Hill will need to get back to that 2014 form to help the Bengals get over the hump. As usual, establishing the running game will be a crucial part of the upcoming season.
"“The most important thing for Jeremy and our football team is to be the productive guy that he was early on in his career,” Lewis told local media at the NFL Combine. “It’s important to us–as a team–to be better, to have all of our players functioning at a very high level.”"
If Hill regurgitates the same stats as the last two campaigns, he could find himself in the doghouse. In other words, Jeremy is on the hot seat. With a year to get his body right, this should be the year he proves the unbelievers wrong.