Who Will be the No. 1 Running Back for Cincinnati Bengals In Week 1?

By Simon Greene
Giovani Bernard
Bob Donnan – USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals have not been known as a running team since the days of of Corey Dillon, but now that the Bengals are going to have two clear front men who are  hard workers and a host of runners who are keen to see some playing time, this could change up slightly in 2013.

Rushing for a team total 1745 yards last season was no great feat considering 12 players had a hand in that number, but after the 2013 NFL Draft, the Bengals are hoping that will change.

Starting in 2013, the Bengals are going to have two pretty decent running backs that they will be able to use to maximize their running game — BenJarvus Green-Ellis and 37th pick Giovanni Bernard.

Green-Ellis only managed a 3.9 yards per carry average over the 2012 regular season, and although that’s not a fantastic number  for someone that you are looking to lead your rushing team, it cannot be said that he’s not a work horse as he still succeeded in rushing for 1,094 yards.

For a team that don’t rely on the rush as much, succeeding in rushing for over 1,000 yards is not something to be scoffed at. He was predominantly used as a short yardage back and to keep the ball moving in the red zone and to that end, he was quite successful.

With the addition Bernard to what the position was originally being talked about as a change-of-pace back,  it’s possible still that the whole running game is going to change. In just two seasons with the North Carolina Tar Heels, Bernard put up almost 3,500 total yards, 2,482 yards rushing and 31 touchdowns at an average of 6.1 yards per carry — definitely ideal numbers when a running back is looking to transition to the NFL.

Although the Bengals were originally looking for the change-of-pace back, Bernard insisted before the draft that he is not simply that and was looking for a team he can call home where he can be the kind of rusher that can be used every down, not just for short yardage. He is excellent in the open field and constantly pushes for the extra yard after a tackle, a kind of back that would be very useful next season.

Prediction: For my money, the Bengals will will start the season with Green-Ellis running the show, but that won’t last long and I don’t think the Bengals intended it to when when they drafted Bernard. A back who has a work ethic like Bernard doesn’t come around too often and the Bengals are going to use this to their full advantage.

Having a running back who is capable of stretching the field will be big change from the last few years, as this was never something we saw in Green-Ellis or in former Bengals running back Cedric Benson. It will likely open up the field more for quarterback Andy Dalton to move the ball down the field with greater effectiveness, something that he often had problems with last season.

It will be a transitional move, but by week 4, Bernard will be getting a majority of the snaps.

Simon Greene – Cincinnati Bengals Writer. Be sure to follow Simon on Twitter @simongreene88

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