Cincinnati Bengals' Preseason Run Game Is Their Newest Dangerous Weapon

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Cincinnati Bengals' Preseason Run Game Is Their Newest Dangerous Weapon
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Thanks to additions like Giovani Bernard, the Bengals have run wild in the preseason.

Considering that it's headlined by players like A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Jermaine Gresham and Mohamed Sanu, much has been made of the Cincinnati Bengals' passing game.

However, the preseason has proven there's another aspect of their offense deserving of attention—the running game.

Through four preseason games, the Bengals have racked up 703 rushing yards, including 191 in their Week 4 27-10 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. That is the most of any team in the preseason—the Washington Redskins came into Week 4 with 517 rushing yards and the Bengals with 512, but Washington had just 130 yards on the ground in their win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Four players—running backs Giovani Bernard, Dan Herron and Rex Burkhead and quarterback Josh Johnson—have had over 90 rushing yards apiece during the exhibition period and the run game has produced five touchdowns.

For a team that had a combined 1,745 rushing yards over 16 games in 2012, the fact that the Bengals have gotten a huge chunk of that in four games is a sign of good things to come.

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While A.J. Green is the first thought that comes to mind when considering the Bengals offense, the run game isn't bad either.

In fact, the effectiveness of Cincinnati's younger running backs has resulted in starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis getting just 10 preseason carries.

Rookies Bernard and Burkhead as well as second-year player Herron have filled in nicely for the veteran and shown just how much depth and talent the Bengals have at running back.

This complements their receiver and defensive depth nicely. While it might make for a headache when it's time for Saturday's final cuts, it's hard to imagine another team in the AFC North in such good shape at a critical, injury-prone position.

Though the talent of the Bengals' backfield—as well as the tricky mobility of Johnson—had much to do with this success, the offensive line also deserves much credit.

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Even Rex Burkhead keeps pulling out big runs out of seemingly nowhere.

None of Cincinnati's offensive linemen graded out particularly positively according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), but none—starters, second-stringers, third-stringers—could be considered liabilities in run-blocking either.

All of this without first-string left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee injury) playing a single snap and with two players, Orson Charles and John Conner, still embroiled in the battle for the starting fullback job. 

In terms of what is practical for the regular season, Bernard's performance in these past four games points to a renewed run game in Cincinnati.

Paired with Green-Ellis' power, his speed and elusiveness should produce one of the more dangerous one-two punches in the league. He averaged three yards per carry against the Colts and 4.5 over the previous three games.

In an entire 60 minutes of play, he should be able to do very real damage against opposing defenses. Bernard has even been valuable at the goal line, with a one-yard touchdown run against Indianapolis—and it's not the first time he's been used that way despite his 5'9", 208-pound frame.

This new weapon could very well be the Bengals' ground-game version of Green.

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Giovani Bernard's preseason success has allowed BenJarvus Green-Ellis to stay fresh for the regular season.

This has been a very productive preseason for the Bengals. They've lost only once, demonstrated how talented their starters are and showed off their league-best defensive line depth.

However, the dominance of their run game has been an unexpected surprise. If this is an indicator of things to come, they truly are the most complete and balanced team in the league. 

With a dangerous, high-octane passing game and an equally explosive running game, the Bengals have the potential to put forth an unstoppable offense on their quest to command not only the AFC North, but the NFL as a whole.

 

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