The Bengals made no effort to hide what they wanted to do. They brought in running backs for long talks. Now, Jeremy Hill has something to prove.
It wasn’t so long ago that Jeremy Hill was the toast of the Queen City and the NFL. He was the overwhelming choice for Fantasy Football aficionados and hard to please analysts. It looked as if the Bengals had finally found a replacement for the talented running backs that had graced the shores of the mighty Ohio River. But, Hill’s fifteen minutes of fame has become a fleeting memory and fans are slow to forgive his recent failures.
The 2014 season was indeed one to remember for Hill. After Giovani Bernard went down with an injury against the Baltimore Ravens (Week 8), Hill powered past him on the depth chart and history was made. Jeremy went on to wow Bengals fans and the league. He accumulated 1,124 yards rushing and was a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year honors.
What happened? How did Hill go from being the talk of Cincinnati water coolers to public enemy (I won’t drop a Flavor Flav reference…oops)? The talented LSU running back has been thrust into the role of scapegoat, butterfingers and has-been.
For most Bengals fans, the mention of his name brings instant memories of the game they’d like to forget. A heartbreaking Wild Card loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers has become his calling card. Even when Hill tweets about non-football related sports, the negativity finds him.
And then the love flows….
Time To Let It Rest?
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Hill will be on the hot seat this season. It’s not a secret that Joe Mixon has been brought into PBS to push the status quo. The running game has been a bit more than average but not what the Bengals need. In order to compete in the AFC North, a sound and consistent ground attack is not a luxury…it’s a must.
Before the draft, Hill let everyone know he embraced the challenge of another back in camp. Per NFL.com, Hill’s remark from Up to the Minute Live was one that resonated with Bengals faithful and will be the earmark for the year.
"“If they wanna draft the back high, go ahead and do it. They’re probably going to be my backup.”"
Let’s look at this from Hill’s perspective. This year will probably be his portfolio and film resume for other teams willing to dish out big money for his services. To think the Bengals aren’t telling him (in a not so subtle manner) to get his act together would be sheer ignorance. Cincinnati needs a sturdy running back to help the offensive line while it finds the right combinations. Dancing feet and the inability to find those small gaps won’t be acceptable.
The OC Has To Be Realistic
Yes, that’s the bottom line. Ken Zampese has to make a choice and stick with it. If Mixon is pounding the rock like a champ, he should get the majority of the carries. Conversely, if Hill has found his mojo again, he should be the man of the hour.
The Bengals can’t afford to experiment with the running game through the bulk of the season. There’s no need to fear, the ground attack should be fine. A little healthy competition will do wonders for the psyche. But, if one back shows the readiness to get more than four yards a pop, the favoritism and equal shares has to end.
If Hill suddenly hits a groove and remembers what made him a household name in 2014, it’s time to forget the past. Most people don’t forget the things that bring them pain. But, it’s easy to forgive a running back who averages 4.5 yards a carry and a team headed for the playoffs because of his performance.