Week 1 will be the proving grounds for the young Bengals. Jeremy Hill will be asked to help revive a stagnant running game.
It’s been a couple of years and Bengals fans are still waiting. When Giovani Bernard went down with an injury in 2014, Jeremy Hill was the ground game’s savior. But, since that rookie year, Hill has produced numbers that have been less than stellar. With the Bengals’ offensive line in transition, hard decisions will have to be made. Either things turn around for the rushing attack or Cincinnati will be putting up 50 pass attempts each game.
The jury is still out on Hill. He isn’t the most hated man in Cincinnati, but he won’t win any popularity contests. Most of the anguish and discontent are due to that rainy night in 2015. That was the year the Bengals had a chance to win it all. In fact, most analysts had picked Cincy to walk away with a better postseason record than in years before. That elusive playoff W was in reach. But, January 9 happened and the rest is sordid history.
Let’s not place all the blame on Hill. There were other culprits that made huge mistakes that night. To be honest, Hill took the blame and never mentioned his teammates. He did the sports shows and answered questions as if it were all on his shoulders. Kudos. Now…back to the present. Is Hill ready to lead the Bengals’ running game into the postseason?
Yes And No
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When the average fan looks at Hill, they see a huge running back with decent speed. What they don’t see are the results that should be coming with those measurables. In 2014, Jeremy dazzled the football universe with 5.1 yards per carry. Since then, his best effort has been 3.8 yards per attempt. He posted that number last season when he also ran for 839 yards.
Let’s be fair. During both his sophomore and junior years in the NFL, Hill has endured injuries. It’s tough to play at the highest level and not be totally healthy. But, that opens another can of worms. Is he an injury-prone back? With that being said, he just suffered an ankle injury in Week 3 of the preseason. Per, Cincinnati.com, Hill is the man for the opener against the Ravens. His effectiveness will be put to the test.
Running backs coach Kyle Caskey said it the way Bengals fans need to hear it.
"“We are more worried about touches in the preseason and play numbers and play counts. In the regular season, we are more worried about production and winning.”"
If it’s about production, Joe Mixon was the better back. He ended the preseason with 110 total yards. Hill had a distant 69 yards of offense. Giovani Bernard chimed in with 25 yards on for carries for a 6.3 average. Pull out the Dragnet lingo. Just the facts.
The Test Is Week 1
To be honest, this is Hill’s last chance to prove he can be the man Bengals fans are waiting to see. He’s a talented runner who needs to decide how he wants to attack his craft. The preseason version would be a nice change. He ran with confidence and determination. The last back to shred the Ravens D was Rex Burkhead. He’s long gone.
Bengals coordinators have confidence in him (222 carries each year). Now, Hill has to believe he can once again become that player who mesmerized the league as a rookie.