Bengals’ Backfield Woes Are Key To Turnaround Season

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Oct 11, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) reacts during the game against the Seattle Seahawks in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 11, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) reacts during the game against the Seattle Seahawks in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports /
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As the NFL Draft creeps closer, the Cincinnati Bengals are tipping their hand. Getting the ground game in gear seems to be the big move.

It’s no secret that the Cincinnati Bengals are looking for applicants. There are no ‘Help Wanted’ posters on the PBS practice field, but the signs are there. Over the past weeks, the Bengals have been taking a closer look at the running back portion of the 2017 draft class. Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon have had visits to the Queen City. Leonard Fournette and D’Onta Foreman are on the wish list. Getting the backfield in order seems to be the plan. If the Bengals can accomplish get things straight with the ground game, things could turn around fast.

At first glance, the 2016 season running attack resembled a train wreck. Cincinnati’s ground game fell outside of the top 10 and managed the No. 13 spot. But, compared to some teams that made the playoffs, the results were more than adequate. The Steelers (1,760 yards) were a tick off from tying the Bengals and landing at No.14. Kansas City (109.3 ypg), Green Bay (106.3) and the Seahawks (99.4) all ranked beneath the Bengals. The Giants and Detroit Lions had the worst totals averaging 88.3 and 81.9 respectively.

Both of the Super Bowl combatants were well within the top 10. By doing some elementary detective work, there’s usually a connection between a sound rushing attack and fighting for a Lombardi. When Jeremy Hill broke through in 2014, the Bengals flaunted a balanced offense and ran for 134.2 yards per game. But, for some reason, the running game was abandoned in the 2014 Wild Card game.

The Flashback Effect 

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To take a ton of pressure off Andy Dalton and the offensive line, the plan will have to revolve around the run. Hill is in the last year of his rookie contract and needs to prove he can get the job done. With the departure of Rex Burkhead to the Dark Side of the Force (New England), someone has to make a stand.

If Hill makes the choice to carry the offense on his shoulders, he’ll have to get nasty. In essence, that means developing the vision and cutback ability Rex had. Hill is not on a downhill slide. He still has the potential to be the back Cincinnati needs. But, it starts with his desire to recapture that 2014 fire and passion that helped the Orange and Black gain 2,147 yards on the ground.

Next: Dalvin Cook Visits The Jungle

Why is Cincy looking at so many backs? It’s not all about Hill. If he stays healthy, things will fall into place. The question mark is Giovani Bernard. Will he be able to regain the cutting ability and speed that made the Bengals lock him up for three years at $15.5 million?

Getting back to the playoffs is something that the Bengals have to do this year. Time is running out. The clock is ticking. Having a decent backfield should lessen the burden.

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