At some point this season, the Cincinnati Bengals will no longer be able to ignore the electricity and explosiveness that rookie running back Giovani Bernard brings to the table.
Currently slated to be the Bengals’ starting running back is BenJarvus Green-Ellis, a five-year NFL veteran who was the No. 1 runner in Cincinnati last season. While starting 15 games for the Bengals in 2012, Green-Ellis amassed 1,094 yards and six touchdowns on 278 carries (3.9 yards per carry). While he was productive, the NFL’s favorite law firm is clearly a one-dimensional weapon for Cincinnati.
Meanwhile, Bernard has the dynamic playmaking ability to be a sparkplug for the Bengal’s offense. With plenty of speed and the shiftiness that turns nothing into something, the rookie North Carolina product can provide the excitement out of the backfield that the Bengals haven’t had since Corey Dillon.
Bernard’s biggest weakness at this point is his power game. He struggles to run between the tackles and often relies too heavily on his burst and agility, which is going to cause some problems early on. Once he properly adjusts to the size and physicality of the NFL, though, Bernard shouldn’t have too much trouble proving himself as an every-down back in Cincinnati.
This preseason, Bernard has been solid. On 23 carries, he has managed 104 yards (4.5 per carry) while finding the end zone twice. He also has six receptions for 55 yards. Through three games, Bernard has forced five missed tackles and continues to display the elusiveness that made him a star in college.
So far his pass blocking has been average, but Bernard improved throughout the preseason and is clearly getting better at picking up the rush.
It might take some time, but Bernard will be the Bengals’ featured back before the end of the 2013 campaign. Considering how much homerun ability Bernard has, Cincinnati won’t be able to keep him on the bench for long.
There’s a reason Bernard was the first running back off the board this past April. Stay tuned.