It didn’t take long for the Cincinnati Bengals to realize Giovani Bernard needs to get the ball more.
“I think they are going to get more to 50/50 sooner than later, probably,” he said, talking about the split in Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ share of snaps.
Per Dehner Jr., Bernard has received just 14 total touches through two weeks of action and has nearly outproduced the incumbent starter. On those 14 touches, the rookie has accumulated 95 yards and two scores while The Law Firm has amassed just 14 more yards of offense despite handling the ball 38 times to this point.
Green-Ellis has kept his job and majority of the work due to his perceived physical advantage over the younger, smaller rookie. But Bernard proved in Week 2 that he can be effective between the tackles, rushing for a seven-yard score while getting a carry in the red zone against Pittsburgh.
The speed with which he hit the line of scrimmage allowed him to take advantage of an opening; he barreled his way through a defender at the goal line to finish the touchdown run.
That initial burst is what the Bengals saw in the back when spending a second-round pick on him in last April’s draft. And while the team will look to utilize that quickness to the outside, Bernard has also shown he’s capable of running effectively between the tackles—that touchdown run is a prime example.
He also flashed speed on a short pass that he took 27 yards for his second touchdown of the game, which was something of an accomplishment for a Bengals rookie, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Elias Says Giovani Bernard is the 1st Bengals rookie with rushing and receiving TDs in the same game since 1989 http://t.co/mV1XwQk300— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 17, 2013
During the Bengals’ Week 2 win, six of Bernard’s eight carries went between the tackles. He ran well, gaining 27 yards on those attempts. When he got the ball to the outside he gained 13 yards on two attempts.
Who ends the season with more all-purpose yards?
His early success as a pass-blocker has also alleviated some concerns about his ability to protect Andy Dalton due to his smaller stature. Bernard has shown willingness and effective technique in this department thus far, so it’s possible too much stock was put into his size affecting his performance in that regard.
All in all, Bernard is already making it difficult to keep him on the sidelines. Anywhere on the field, the Bengals have a weapon who can hurt a team with just one touch but also grind away yards between the tackles and contribute in the short passing game.
All I have to say is, it’s about time Gruden started getting him the ball more.
All stats used in this article were obtained from Pro Football Focus. A subscription is required to view the data on their website.