The 2015 season must have seemed like a surreal dream for the Bengals. Cincinnati was on the verge of taking the postseason trip to the next level, when tragedy struck. With 1:33 to go in the game, running back Jeremy Hill appeared to have fumbled the ball. The play was reviewed and the call was upheld. It was a day that most Bengals fans will never forget. It’s also been the rallying cry for a change at the position. But is it really necessary?
Bengals fans will forever have the image of Jeremy Hill pacing up and down the sidelines, as he waited to hear the ruling on his “fumble.” When the Pittsburgh Steelers received the ball, Hill was devastated. memes and Vine loops of his tearful remorse were all over social media. The harshest remarks came from fans of the Steelers, but the Bengals faithful were just as cruel.
Hill’s rookie year was a monster season. The comparisons to that breakthrough year and 2015 began to fuel the fire for another running back. The Bengals’ season had seemingly been ruined with the fumbling of a ball.
Do the Bengals really need to grab a running back in the draft? The answer might not be as simple as bringing in a new set of wheels. According to Walter Football, Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott was underwhelming during his time at the NFL Combine.
There have been rumors that he didn’t interview well and he may be a locker room hazard. The Bengals like taking chances on players, but the need isn’t that great. Various sources have said that Elliott graded out as a high first-rounder and is expected to go in the top 20. Bengals brass will be looking at wide receivers during the early rounds.
For raw speed, the sleeper would be Keith Marshall. He amazed everyone at the combine with an incredible 4.31 40-yard dash time. The Georgia Bulldog produced a jaw-dropping moment for a running back of his size (five-feet, 11-inches, 219-pounds).
If the Bengals were to pick a back that fits the system, it would most likely be the Golden Bears’ Daniel Lasco. He’s another big back with decent speed and good hands. Lasco was injured during the 2015 season, but posted good numbers in 2014. He could still be on the clock in later rounds. But, per Fansided, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be looking for a dual-threat back like him.
When looking at the production of both Hill and Giovani Bernard, the numbers don’t lie. Bernard was a force, coming out of the backfield. Bengals fans watched him gain 472 yards through the air. Hill touched 15 passes and gained 79 yards. The total yardage output for both Hill and Bernard was 873 and 1,202, respectively.
With the Bengals employing a quarterback-friendly offense in 2015, the rushing yards were closely split. Hill led the way with 794 ground yards. Bernard was able to collect 730. If the combined yards were from one back, the year would have been considered successful. After setting the bar with 1,124 yards and a 5.1 average, Hill’s sophomore year seemed subpar.
Part of the problem was former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Hill was asked to bulk up. The extra weight on his legs may have slowed him down. Though Jackson claimed his play-calling was based on the opponent, the offense was decidedly pass-heavy.
The Bengals will certainly be looking for the services of a few good wide outs. With the departure of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, Rex Burkhead could jump from being the fourth or fifth option in the passing game. Adding him to the ground attack could also be a new wrinkle from offensive coordinator Ken Zampese. Giving Hill a few more touches could also help the run game. He gets stronger as the game goes on.
There’s no dire need for the Bengals to secure a running back. But in 2017, Bernard and Burkhead will be free agents. Taking a deeper look wouldn’t hurt.
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