The 2015 season for the Cincinnati Bengals was one to remember. They were able to make the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year and broke various franchise records. The one area of concern was one that ultimately came down to individual performance. Jeremy Hill had a disappointing year after impressing the league and fans as a rookie. If the Bengals are going to make the playoffs again, Hill has to overcome the sophomore slump. He has to regain the passion that made him a man cave god.
During his 2014 rookie season, Hill was no less than a beast. Per ESPN, Hill racked up an impressive five 100-yard rushing games that year. He had two games with over 150 yards. In two others, he was just a few yards shy of breaking that mark again. He ran with power and determination. Hill looked as if he had something to prove to the NFL.
He ended the season with 1,124 yards rushing and a 5.1 per carry average. Suddenly, he was the darling of the league and the running back to have on any fantasy team. He was a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year. Some Bengals fans had even written off Giovani Bernard as the featured back. The world belonged to Jeremy Hill and Cincinnati was his throne.
Hill became the first Bengals’ rookie to top 1,000 yards rushing since Corey Dillon in 1997. Hill’s rushing yards were the most among rookies and eighth overall in the NFL. His yards per carry average ranked him second among running backs. He also recorded 27 receptions and 215 receiving yards on the season. Hill was also named the starter for the 2015 season, ahead of Giovani Bernard.
Funny things happen, though, in the game of football. The star of a game can quickly become the goat. Hill entered this season with high expectations from Bengals fans and coaches. After a promising Week 1 game against the Oakland Raiders, Hill’s year became a nightmare.
The very next week, Hill was lost in the Bengals offense. Giovani Bernard rose to the occasion and shredded the San Diego Chargers for 123 yards. Hill was held to 39 yards and the beginning of a trend was born. Hill would be upstaged by his teammate for the rest of the 2015 campaign.
Ending the regular season with 794 yards rushing is a terrific feat for any player. For Jeremy Hill, that was underachieving at its best. He came nowhere close to his successful rookie year. He averaged 3.6 yards per carry and looked uninspired.
Hill was responsible for 11 touchdowns, but nine were inside the goal-line situations. The poor rushing average was a glaring takeaway from the trips to the end zone. Hill showed signs of regaining his form, towards the end of the year. He posted 98-yard and 96-yard rushing totals against division rivals Browns and Ravens. The effort was there, but it came too late.
The Bengals have one of the best windows to repeat as division champions and make a run at the Super Bowl. If that effort is to be realized, Hill will have to bounce back quickly. Part of his motivation should be the meltdown he suffered after fumbling in the Wild Card game against the Steelers.
Bernard finished the year with 1,202 total yards, compared to only 873 for Hill. Bernard also posted a much better 4.7 yards per carry compared to Hill’s effort. If Hill is to remain the starter, his numbers and effort will have to outshine those of the change-of-pace back.
Hill has often said that numbers aren’t as important as helping his teammates. His stats are evidence that didn’t necessarily happen at all times. Hill needs to rediscover his love for the game and stop falling asleep in team meetings.
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]