So far this preseason, the most talked about players in the AFC North have been Ray Rice (off the field issues), Andy Dalton (new contract) and that Johnny Manziel guy (never heard of him.) One name that isn’t garnering a whole lot of mainstream media attention is Giovani Bernard. Not exactly a household name quite yet, but the second year Bengals running back is in the perfect position to have a big 2014.
Last year Bernard amassed 1,209 yards from scrimmage, along with eight total touchdowns. At times during his rookie season, Bernard was simply electric. Making numerous highlight reel plays, Bernard developed nicely as the season moved on. Whether he was front flipping into the end zone against Green Bay, or reversing his field entirely for a seemingly impossible touchdown against the Dolphins, Bernard was everywhere in 2013. It’s hard not to be astonished when you look at his highlight film.
For an offense that’s biggest draw is the Andy Dalton to A.J. Green Air Show, Giovani Bernard is criminally overlooked and underrated.
Bernard has 4.5 speed and agility that would impress LeSean McCoy. The second year pro will surely see an abundance of opportunities, despite the somewhat crowded backfield. Jeremy Hill comes to the Queen City from LSU, but I don’t expect the rookie to overtake too many carries from the second year Tar Heel. In regards to aging running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, it’s very likely that Green-Ellis will see a significant role decrease, that is assuming he isn’t cut all together. These factors make Bernard the perfect candidate for the lead back role in Cincinnati.
Bernard could potentially be the first Bengals running back to make the Pro Bowl since Rudi Johnson did back in 2004.
A reason why the Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson loves Bernard is because of how incredibly versatile he is. Not only is Bernard dangerous while running the ball, but he’s indubitably valuable as a receiver, as 514 of his yards last year were receiving.
One of the things that impresses me the most about Bernard is how tough of a runner he is. Despite his small frame (5’9″, 208), Bernard will rarely go down after the first hit, as he is fully capable of maintaining balance and gain more yards. Bernard doesn’t have ‘Reggie Bush Saints Syndrome,’ as he has absolutely no problem running up the middle and meeting defenders head on. This hard nosed style of play is a reason why Bernard reminds me a lot of Ahmad Bradshaw, albeit a faster, more talented version.
Bengals running backs coach Kyle Caskey told ESPN how Cincy plans on utilizing Bernard. “We’re going to expand his portfolio of plays and find different ways to get him the ball in space.” It’s obvious that the Bengals want to get Bernard the ball early and often. A stat sheet resembling over 1,000 rushing yards and over 500 yards receiving is totally feasible for Bernard.
If you’re in a fantasy league (I really hope you are) draft this kid, as he’s poised for a breakout 2014. The only thing that’s holding back Bernard from becoming a premiere running back in this league is himself. Bernard will have ample amounts of opportunities come fall, and expect him to use those opportunities to shine.