For the last couple of seasons, the Cincinnati Bengals have really struggled to find some solid help in the backfield. With the additions of A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, the passing game has seen quite a bit more action than has the running game.
Cedric Benson proved to be past his prime following the 2011 season, and Cincinnati filled the void with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, whose running style is basically the same. What the team lacked in the backfield was a guy who could breakaway with great speed—I can't name the last guy in Cincinnati to fit that description.
Now, it seems that the Bengals have finally addressed this issue, adding the young Giovani Bernard in the draft this past April. It seemed inevitable that they would get Green-Ellis some help last season, which they did not. After seeing that he is not capable of carrying a full load, the front office caved.
With four running backs currently on the depth chart, how will this break down as we get closer to September?
Make no mistake about it—Green-Ellis is going to see the biggest part of the action in 2013. He's the veteran presence on such a young team, and Jay Gruden trusts him. This is not a bad thing.
Unless your name is Adrian Peterson, you don't need to be thrust immediately into the spotlight, so giving Bernard the bulk of the carries would not be a good idea. Instead, keep the bruiser of the group who knows the NFL in the starting role.
Did the Law Firm blow anyone away in 2012? No, but he did what he had to do. He carried a career-high 278 times, totaling 1,094 yards and six touchdowns.
No one expected him to be one of these guys who can go for 1,400 yards or better, as that has never been who Green-Ellis is. This is a bruising back who prefers to plow through guys, not try to dance past them and leave them standing. On the goal lines, you can bet Green-Ellis will be on the field, and I'd venture to say he'll be in the backfield about 60 percent of the offensive plays this season.
With the 37th overall pick, Cincinnati made Bernard the first running back selected in the 2013 NFL draft. Much speculation had Eddie Lacy being the first one selected, but as it was, the Bengals decided on what is the better option in Bernard.
Over the last two seasons at the University of North Carolina, Bernard picked up just under 2,500 yards on 423 carries. He averaged over five yards per carry in 2011 and almost seven in 2012.
At the combine, Bernard was a top performer in the 20-yard and 60-yard shuttles (via NFL.com). His 4.53-second time in the 40-yard dash wasn't as impressive as a sub-4.5, but don't doubt Bernard's speed. The guy has incredibly quick feet and can change direction at the drop of a hat. Having him run with speed will be a great complement to Green-Ellis' bruising style.
While Bernard won't see the greater part of the action in 2013 as he works on his pass protection, he definitely has the potential to make a lot of noise in 2012. I don't expect him to make it to 1,000 yards this season, but 800-900 wouldn't be too far-fetched.
While Scott is currently listed as the No.3 back on the Bengals roster, I expect that to change by the time the season starts. That's nothing against his abilities, but Scott is still struggling with a knee injury that kept him out for almost the entire 2012 season.
He has a lot of upside but never realized his potential. He split time with Cedric Benson for a couple seasons and in 2010 showed some true abilities, averaging 4.9 yards per carry on only 61 carries.
Scott possesses a tremendous amount of speed and was utilized in the return game for awhile. If he can stay healthy, there's no reason Jay Gruden couldn't use him sparingly on third-down plays to come out of the backfield and catch a pass.
He is similar to Andrew Hawkins in that he's a small guy who has great speed. Unfortunately, though, I do not see Scott seeing much time on the field in 2013, whether that be due to injury or because the team opts for Cedric Peerman instead.
I'm actually interested to see what Peerman can do in a more useful role in Cincinnati. That will be extremely difficult now that Cincinnati actually has some depth at the position.
Peerman didn't see much action in his first two NFL seasons, but last season he appeared in 14 games. Through those 14 games, he carried the ball 36 times for 258 yards and a score—if you do that math, that's a 7.2 yards per carry average.
Am I ready to hand him a starting job after such a limited glimpse of his abilities? Not a chance, but I am more willing to see if he can be used more.
For that reason, I do believe he will overtake Scott for the third spot on the depth chart, and that may not mean more action, but it would at least mean the chance exists for him to show he can go.