Giovani Bernard to Bengals: How Does RB Fit with Cincinnati?

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Giovani Bernard to Bengals: How Does RB Fit with Cincinnati?
USA TODAY Sports
Giovani Bernard gives the Cincinnati Bengals a threat in the backfield.

The Cincinnati Bengals made a shocking move in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft by grabbing Tyler Eifert, and then proceeded to follow that up by shocking fans once again by being the first team this year to select a running back. 

Cincinnati made North Carolina's Giovani Bernard the No. 37 overall selection with the honor of being the first back off the board. 

To say running back was a need in Cincinnati would be an understatement, so for Cincinnati to land arguably the best back in the draft after passing on him in the first round is great news for a young team looking to take the next step.

Let's break down how Bernard fits in the Queen City. 

 

Role

Cincinnati utilizes a running-back-by-committee approach, but that could change with the selection of Bernard. 

As far as the depth chart goes, Bernard may end up No. 1 by the time training camp concludes. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was one of the best in the NFL when it came to short-yardage situations last season, but lacked the explosiveness the Cincinnati offense requires. 

In Bernard, the Bengals now have an every-down back if the coaching staff elects to use him in that manner. He can get the tough yards between the tackles, but also has the speed and agility to break outside for big gains. 

More importantly, Bernard is the type of back who can keep defenses honest thanks to his big-play ability. Last season, opposing defenses could throw all of their resources at stopping receiver A.J. Green because there was not a legitimate threat in the backfield. 

That all changes with Bernard. 

Further pushing up Bernard's stock on the depth chart and with the Cincinnati coaching staff is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and gain yardage. 

Last season alone at North Carolina, Bernard caught 47 passes out of the backfield. Under offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's West Coast attack, this is a critical element that the Bengals have been lacking since Gruden and Dalton came to town. 

Bernard changes that as well. 

It's also worth mentioning that Bernard could push for playing time on special teams. The Bengals were simply mediocre in the return department last season. Bernard was exceptional on punt returns in college—he averaged 16.4 yards per return last year. 

Of course, if Bernard is truly utilized as an every-down back, it's doubtful he will be asked to make significant contributions on special teams as well. It is still great to have such an effective option on the roster. 

At the end of the day, the Bengals just made a man who nearly averaged 200 all-purpose yards a game last season a part of an already explosive offense. 

 

Early Projections 

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

In reality, the Bengals will likely still use a committee approach, especially with Green-Ellis' outstanding ability when the tough yards are needed. 

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However, Bernard is going to push others out of a job. Cincinnati recently brought back Bernard Scott, but he's coming off a torn ACL, and frankly, Bernard does everything Scott can do, but better. 

If there's a committee approach at all, it will be limited to Green-Ellis and Bernard. In the context of the Cincinnati offense based on short passes and effective, explosive runs, it makes sense that Bernard would see the majority of the snaps. 

Bernard is going to be running behind one of the NFL's best offensive lines. Not only that, defenses cannot focus on him too heavily, or they run the risk of leaving Green, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert open in the passing game. 

In other words, expect significant production for Bernard in one of the AFC's most complete offensive attacks. 

 

Stats Projection: 225 carries, 800 yards, four touchdowns.

 

All pertinent prospect info courtesy of CBS

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